Corporate DEI Initiatives Don’t Discriminate Against White Men

For centuries, marginalized groups have been discriminated against and given restricted access to fair opportunities. The foundation of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work was established after the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Almost 60 years later, an assault on DEI is underway.

The historic Supreme Court ruling on race-conscious admissions focused on higher education. However, some organizations argue that corporate diversity initiatives discriminate. This year, several states introduced anti-Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) legislation. Critics say ESG investments prioritize political decisions rather than maximizing investor returns.

White men have historically held positions of power and privilege within many organizational structures. Despite this, high-profile lawsuits have claimed that DEI policies have disadvantaged white men.

“DEI efforts are under unprecedented attack,” said Luke Visconti, Founder and Chairman of Fair360. “Are the attacks justified because DEI discriminates against white men? A cursory look at every possible power center says no, but a hunch isn’t a good business plan. We decided to build proof that DEI efforts are not systemically discriminatory.”

For over 20 years, Fair360’s Top 50 survey has collected human capital data from hundreds of companies. In 2023, these organizations employed over 8 million people in the U.S. We conducted a deep dive into our data to determine if white men have been adversely affected by workplace fairness efforts. Our analysis revealed that corporate DEI initiatives do not discriminate against white men. Here’s more on what we found.

Fairness Representation Ratios

White men predominately occupy corporate leadership positions.

According to a USA Today analysis of named executive officers at S&P 100 companies, white men represent 7 in 10 executives. Of all companies participating in the 2023 Top 50 survey, white men comprise 30% of the workforce. The group makes up almost 52% of leadership, confirming the leadership disparity. To determine if corporate DEI initiatives discriminate against white men, Fair360 analyzed the Fairness Representation Ratios of white men compared to men of color (MOC) and women.

Understanding that each company operates differently, Fair360 collects data based on a reporting structure related to the CEO. Level 1 management includes CEOs and their direct reports, followed by Level 2 management and Level 3 management. Level 4 management is three levels below the C-suite.

The Fairness Representation Ratio is the representation percentage of a group in a smaller segment (e.g., Level 1) in management divided by the representation percentage of that group in a bigger segment (e.g., overall management).

The comparative point for the Fairness Representation Ratio metric is 1. Fair360 determined this as the objective standard for measuring fairness. To be fair, any group’s representation should mirror what is reflected in hiring, promotions and access to programs.

For example, if the Fairness Representation Ratio is greater than 1, a particular group’s representation is greater in upper management than others.

                                      Fairness Representation Ratios 
Group Total Management L4 Mgmt. L3 Mgmt. L2 Mgmt. L1 Mgmt. 
White Men 1.24 1.03 1.13 1.23 1.38 
Men of Color 0.82 0.92 0.82 0.84 0.83 
All Women 0.92 1.02 0.97 0.88 0.75 


Our data shows that white men experience more fairness in total management than MOC and women. In fact, fairness for white men improves as they rise into management from Level 4. Conversely, women start at Level 4 management at almost the same level as white men. However, as women move up the management ranks, their Fairness Representation Ratio declines.

High Potential Fairness Ratio

While discussions about diversity and high-potential talent often focus on underrepresented groups, Fair360 explored the High Potential data submitted for the Top 50 survey. The survey is the most extensive, data-driven analysis of workplace fairness initiatives and outcomes-focused human capital metrics. The goal was better to understand the proportion of the selected employee demographics.

High potentials aspire to obtain more significant responsibilities and leadership positions.

Ninety percent of Fair360’s Top 10 Companies monitor representation and/or test for bias in their programs. If white men were negatively affected by DEI, the policies would impact their potential to move up the career ladder.

Our data shows the High Potential Fairness Ratio for white men is 1.09. The ratio for women is 1.00 and 0.82 for MOC, indicating more fairness for white men.

Highest-Paid 10% Fairness Ratio

High-potential employees command competitive compensation due to their value and expertise.

A 2021 study by the Economic Policy Institute revealed that the top 10% of earners nationally received an average income of more than $167,000 in 2020. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among the highest-paid 10% of workers, white men earned more than the highest-paid women and highest-paid Black and Latino men.

Our data revealed that the Highest-Paid 10% Fairness Ratio for white men is 1.47. The ratio for MOC is 0.86; for women, it is 0.77, indicating more fairness for white men.

Focus on Fairness is Imperative

Fair360’s research does not suggest that individual discrimination cases are impossible. However, as indicated by the Fairness Representation Ratio, High Potential Fairness Ratio and the Highest 10% Paid Ratio, white men experience more workplace fairness than women and MOC.

“There is no doubt that white men are overrepresented, especially in leadership, in the hundreds of companies that submitted data to us,” Visconti said. “My opinion is that people are being manipulated into believing that DEI efforts are the enemy when they are clearly necessary by just a cursory look at the data.”

In addition, when examining the Turnover Fairness Ratio, Fair360’s data indicates that fewer white men leave their companies than MOC and women.

“Women earned more than half of Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in 1990. But top management today is 70% men and this year’s college graduates were only 19% cis-gendered white men with no disabilities,” Visconti said. “Our data shows that human capital management has to catch up with reality. The penalty for not evolving is diminished quality. This is not conservative or liberal, it’s math.”

According to Pew Research, more than half of workers say their company has policies that ensure fairness in hiring, promotions and pay. Fair360’s Top 10 Companies have prioritized boosting ethnic diversity in the talent pipeline and enhancing opportunities for diverse populations in the upcoming year.

Value of Fair360’s Top 50 Survey

Workplace fairness improves business performance and leads to a more innovative and productive workforce. Companies can gain insights into their human capital data by participating in Fair360’s 2024 Top 50 Survey.

“Our Top 50 survey is a comprehensive look into an organization’s human capital representation and best practices. We’ve been conducting it for over 20 years,” Visconti said. “This report on white men is the first of many innovations you will see from us in the coming year.”

Visconti added that talent pool demographic changes demand a fresh outlook from management, with accountability for results.

“Having women representation in top management that is 25 percentage points lower than graduation rates is a disastrous waste of talent, resulting in far less talented men in spots they should never have had and resulting losses in innovation and productivity,” he said. “To blame DEI efforts in discriminating against white men (which at most companies are ineffective performative art, as judged by the results) is intuitively foolish. We’ve proven it wrong.”


Our study examined how white men, women and men of color are represented in companies featured in our Top 50 survey. We wanted to understand if these groups were being impacted differently by the companies’ DEI initiatives.

To do this, we employed ANOVA tests, a standard type of statistical analysis. Through these tests, we identified significant disparities in leadership representation compared to the overall management composition. Essentially, we were looking to see if all groups (white men, MOC and women) had fair and proportional opportunities for advancement.

When our initial analysis revealed noteworthy differences, we took a closer look using Tukey HSD post-hoc tests. These tests are a bit more in-depth. They allowed us to pinpoint which two specific groups were experiencing disparities (e.g., white men compared to MOC or white men compared to women).