Diversity and Inclusion Training

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J.C. Pan:

"Growing public outcry over the whiteness of these fields and others has pushed university deans, studio executives, and corporate boards to adopt a battery of diversity initiatives, inflating a cottage industry that—between anti-bias and cultural competency educators, consultants, workshops, and trainings sold to companies, schools, and other institutions—is today worth close to $8 billion. Diversity training is currently mandated at most Fortune 500 companies and about half of all midsize firms in the United States. In addition, nearly two-thirds of colleges and universities use diversity trainings, and about 30 percent require their faculty to attend them. And, of course, in the wake of race-related public relations disasters, it’s now standard practice for corporations to conduct nationwide company sensitivity trainings, like the ones hastily rolled out by Sephora and Starbucks after instances of racial profiling at their stores.

Despite this rapid growth, today’s diversity industry has largely failed to usher in the diverse workplaces and schools it promises. A growing number of empirical studies suggest that anti-bias training (also known as implicit bias training) and other diversity initiatives don’t work. A recent study by sociologists Frank Dobbin at Harvard University and Alexandra Kalev at Tel Aviv University, surveying more than 30 years of data collected from over 800 firms, found that diversity programs not only failed to increase workplace diversity, but in many cases even reduced diversity or exacerbated participants’ biases. A 2016 meta-analysis of nearly 500 studies on implicit bias interventions similarly found that while such sessions sometimes briefly and slightly diminished participants’ implicit biases, they had no significant long-term effects on people’s behavior or attitudes. And in 2019, another study of diversity training programs by a team of behavioral scientists further confirmed that onetime interventions designed to reduce implicit bias—the type used by the vast majority of employers and institutions—tend not to change very many minds at all." (https://newrepublic.com/article/156032/diversity-training-isnt-enough-pamela-newkirk-robin-diangelo-books-reviews)


Contrarian Prejudice-Reinforcing Effects of Diversity and Inclusion Training Programs in Corporations

David Rock:

"Although diversity and inclusion training is prevalent in corporate America, its impact is inconsistent. According to the evidence, sometimes the programs even have the opposite effect of what they intend. One 2016 study of 830 mandatory diversity training programs found that they often triggered a strong backlash against the ideas they promoted. “Trainers tell us that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance,” wrote sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev in the Harvard Business Review, “and many participants actually report more animosity toward other groups afterward.”


Emphasizing the value of ethnic diversity can have the unfortunate side effect of amplifying these tribal tendencies. Studies have shown that when countries pursue multiculturalism policies, many people become more racist and more hostile toward immigrants. Laboratory studies have also shown that watching a video celebrating multiculturalist values can increase viewers’ levels of prejudice against immigrants.

In her book The Authoritarian Dynamic, Princeton University political psychologist Karen Stenner argues that people with authoritarian personalities—those valuing strong and forceful control of situations and society—tend to become more racist when faced with the inclusion message, not less. “Well-meaning programs celebrating multiculturalism…might aggravate more than educate, might intensify rather than diminish, intolerance,” she writes. Even for those with less authoritarian personalities, highlighting cultural differences may not in itself decrease bias. Tribalism is part of human nature, and any effort to pretend it isn’t or to change that reality will be perceived by many as a threat against the in-group. When that happens, hostility kicks in.


When people perceive one another as members of the same in-group, racial bias—and possibly other forms of bias against groups of people—tends to melt away. Thus, the way to increase inclusion in the workplace is to make everyone feel like they’re part of the same team.

Many studies support this idea, at least implicitly, and one way to create an in-group feeling among people is to establish shared goals. Inclusion programs can make a start by creating teams whose members matter to one another because they’re part of the same in-group, pursuing the same interests. Focusing on common goals, and a common identity, will be critically important for eliminating bias—both within the enterprise and in leading the way for society at large." (https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/your-brain-work/201706/is-your-company-s-diversity-training-making-you-more-biased)