White men, put down your brandy and cigars, I have something to say.

I'm seeing more and more of you opining about how useful you still are, crying out "please, pretty please, stop calling us pale, male, and stale".

Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter, set off a flurry of white-dude harrumphing when she said that if there was going to be more diversity on boards then some older white men would need to give way. All over the country typewriters were thumped in rage as editors were inundated by letters from older white men saying how dare this woman have the temerity to suggest that to get more diversity on boards, we'd have to have fewer numbers of the thing that prevented diversity.

I'm going to break it down with some maths. If there are 100 board positions around the country, and 80 of them are taken by men, and we want more gender diversity, then to get that diversity some of those men will have to not be on boards. It's not a slight on men, but rather a truism.


"But we shouldn't appoint people based on gender or race! We should appoint people based on merit!" the white men will bark.

In the UK in 2017 there were more men called Dave that were CEOs of Britain's 100 biggest companies than there were women CEOs. If you think that as a rule Daves are better than women in totality then you haven't met me. We are clearly not appointing on merit. We are appointing on being called Dave. That's how I got this column. The argument that we currently appoint on merit means that we think that white men are better than any other group because they are all over-represented in positions of authority.

"Oh you're all social justice warriors trying to have social justice and doing it in a warrior-like fashion".

Why would we not want to have a just society? Who doesn't want justice socially?

I'll tell you who: the people who have benefitted from a system that has in-built advantages for them. People, who for centuries have lived in a society that is structurally built to help them over other groups and which has kept helping them all the way through their lives. I'm of course talking about Daves. And white men.

Inside every Dave is a fear that if we lived in a truly equitable society, if people were judged not on their sex, their age, their ethnicity or their Dave-ness, then they might not be as special as they've been brought up to believe. That they might be as special as – gasp – women! Or people of colour. Or trans people. Or everybody else around them. Because that's judging on merit.

What's going on now isn't that white men are having their power taken away from them, it's that people who aren't white men are getting more platforms to speak. To yell. To cry out. And they're saying "hey, Dave, this isn't fair. Wouldn't it be fairer if there were more people like me in positions of authority?". And it's hard to answer "no" without being a touch bigoted.

So Daves, white men, it's ok. Really it is. Other people can share our pedestal. I know preaching this from a column in our nation's biggest newspaper is rich but if I've got it, I might as well use it for change. There's space for people who don't look and sound like us to talk with us. In fact it's more interesting that way. We get to hear more than just boring golf anecdotes.


David Cormack is the co-founder of communications and PR firm, Draper Cormack Group. He has worked for the Labour Party, the Green Party and for National.

David Cormack.
David Cormack.