01 Feb 2023

Team Member Spotlight: Tim Kaelin

Team Member Spotlight

The Role of the White Male In the Workplace
A conversation with Tim Kaelin

“The game is changing, the home field advantage is shifting, but everything is okay.” – Vernā Myers

As we kick off our series on Understanding White Male Privilege, we sat down with Tim Kaelin, to get his perspective, as a white male, on why it is so important to connect with other white men when it comes to recognizing their own privilege. And why having these courageous and compassionate conversations can help white men better understand: 

How they can use their privilege for good. 

How they can become allies for those who may be at an unfair disadvantage.

And ultimately how they can work together to dismantle inequities in the workplace. 

Tim is TVMC’s President and CFO and is the host of the Born On 3rd podcast. Inspired by the quote, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple,” Tim launched the Born On 3rd podcast to bring a focus to the equities in our society. Tim hopes these conversations around privilege will help bridge the gap between those born with privilege and the disenfranchised. Coming from a challenging upbringing himself, Tim is no stranger to adversity. Growing up with poverty he had to fight hard to make it out and truly understands and appreciates how different his life would have turned out if he was not a white male. 

Let’s get into our conversation!


TVMC: You identify as a white male. How does this role influence your approach to your business and the work you do with TVMC?

TK:  I think it has great influence because I can better relate to knowing the position white men are in and where they sit on the racial hierarchy in this country.  So being able to leverage that position, to help influence others in a positive way has a huge impact on how I approach the work I do. Whether it’s a conversation around allyship, unconscious bias, or equity, I think it’s important to get the message out to people in a way that will help them better hear and understand it. Sometimes it helps to have this message to white men come from somebody who looks like them. I’m just trying to use the fact that I am a white man, with all the privilege and opportunity that comes with that, to educate people. And using that connection to try to influence others like me.

I also think that when white men talk about these types of things with leaders from marginalized communities, they get very defensive. It’s both a sensitive and jarring topic. They’re coming into the conversation from a place of interest, but they are also fearful of saying the wrong thing and the repercussions that may come from that. But if they have a conversation with another white man, I think the walls come down a little bit. The reality is, many white men don’t know how to approach these types of conversations in the workplace. 


TVMC: Last year you launched a podcast called Born On 3rd that focuses on the inequities within our society. Can you tell us more about Born On 3rd and how you hope it impacts change?

TK: So the Born On 3rd podcast is based on a Barry Switzer quote, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” It’s based on athletics but when I first heard the quote, it really resonated with me from an economic standpoint. I’ve gone through poverty in my life and understand what it means to not be born on third base – despite the fact that I was born a white male with inherent privilege. But the quote absolutely applies to every aspect of life. So the podcast is really about having personal conversations with people that weren’t born on third and their experiences navigating the base paths. Because you’re not always going forward. Some people go backward because of events in their life that were out of their control. Having conversations about these experiences is important. 

The idea behind change can be overwhelming. I’ve made the mistake myself thinking I can change the world. But I started thinking “wow, there’s a lot involved in that” – you get overwhelmed. So you procrastinate or you just drop it because it just starts to feel too big. So for the Born On 3rd podcast, it’s really about people listening to it, taking away some connection to the guests and their stories, and incorporating that knowledge into their lives and sphere of influence. That’s the change that I’m looking for. And I think it will actually be an impactful change. You’re not out to change the world, you’re just out to change your own personal sphere of influence. 


TVMC: What does it mean to be a white male in today’s society?

TK: I think it boils down to coming to a better understanding of my own whiteness, and what it means to be a white male dealing with the challenges that I had to overcome in my life. They were hard. I had to work hard. There was a lot of pain involved. There were a lot of things that I needed to get over, come to grips with, and deal with, and I made it out to the other side. But now I understand that if I wasn’t a white male if I happened to be anything other than a white male, that same journey would be nearly impossible. It doesn’t make my journey any less or easier. It’s just the reality that if somebody else, a Black man, a Gay white man or a Black woman was put in my situation, I don’t know if they would have made it out. And that’s not to take anything away from what white men have put into their lives. Because many white men, like myself, have put hard work into their lives. It is just that if somebody else would have done the same thing as them it would have been far more difficult for them. That’s just how our society works. 


TVMC: Why do you think many organizations struggle with implementing DEI practices in the hiring process and beyond?

TK: There’s a lot of focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Diversity is about a number and inclusion is really about finding the best people regardless of their background. You have to be open to finding the best people for your organization so your business is successful. So you have the right people in your organization to meet your goals. It’s hard because it’s human nature to want to hire people like yourself. There’s a very strong ingrained part of being a person where you are vastly more comfortable with the familiar. And when you’re going through the interview process, that’s just what happens. You go on an interview with the manager and you both went to the same college, you both play golf, you both drink the same type of beer, and you both are fans of the same team, there’s a familiarity there. And so the manager says “I like this guy!” And you know why he likes him? Because he’s just like him, he’s familiar. 

You bring in somebody that went to a college with less prestige, that grew up in the city versus the suburbs, that isn’t a football fan, is a woman, there’s isn’t any commonality. The manager says: “I don’t like her as much,” for no other reason other than that they are just not comfortable with unfamiliarity. And that’s the real problem with the hiring process.  So how does the organization grow, how does it come up with new ideas, and how does it get better when you’re basically hiring the same person over and over and over again? One solution is to get out of our comfort zone and see beyond similarities; review values, abilities, and what a candidate can bring to the table that may be lacking in your organization. This is how we begin to change the interviewing and hiring process. And until you get out of that nothing will change.


Thank you, Tim, for your insights and important perspective. 

Want to better understand how white men can be allies in your organization?  Head over to our learning platform, TVMCU.com, and register for the course Talking Boldly: The Evolving Role of White Men in the Workplace