Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Why Diversity Training Fails

Kudos to Musa al-Gharbi for offering a comprehensive study about why diversity and sensitivity training does not work. Heterodox Academy published the article. I will merely attempt to summarize the points and will include large sections of the original. (via Hot Air and Maggie's Farm)

It is thoughtful, well reasoned and comprehensive. It tells us that corporations do not sponsor diversity training because it produces the desired results. That is, because it facilitates cooperation between members of different ethnic and racial groups. They seem to do it to gain a PR advantage and to show themselves to be virtuous. Naturally, they also want to protect themselves against lawsuits.

Regardless of the metric you use, these programs fail:

However, when scientists set about to investigate whether the programs actually changed behaviors, i.e. do they reduce expressions of bias, do they reduce discrimination, do they foster greater collaboration across groups, do they help with retaining employees from historically marginalized or underrepresented groups, do they increase productivity or reduce conflicts in the workplace — for all of these behavioral metrics, the metrics that actually matter, not only is the training ineffective, it is often counterproductive.

One might say that they will inevitably fail. They are an instance of corporate mind control, designed to overcome the assumption that members of marginalized groups have been hired to fulfill a quota, not because of their merits. Shelby Steele made the point decades ago. It is still valid.

And, dare we mention, the success or failure of diversity initiatives ought not to be reduced to the ability to bend minds to the dogmas of diversity. Whatever the diversity trainers think, members of marginalized groups must perform their jobs. If they are not performing well, diversity training suggests that they are not at fault, but that those of more privileged groups are responsible. Evidently this will produce antagonism, not comity.

Al-Gharbi explains the goals of the programs:

The stated goals of these training programs vary, from helping to increase hiring and retention of people from historically marginalized and underrepresented groups, to eliminating prejudicial attitudes or behaviors to members of said groups, to reducing conflict and enhancing cooperation and belonging among all employees. Irrespective of the stated goals of the programs, they are overwhelmingly ineffective with respect to those goals. Generally speaking, they do not increase diversity in the workplace, they do not reduce harassment or discrimination, they do not lead to greater intergroup cooperation and cohesion – consequently, they do not increase productivity. More striking: many of those tasked with ensuring compliance with these training programs recognize them as ineffective (see Rynes & Rosen 1995, p. 258).

Since the diversity training must begin by defining stereotypes, it ends up reinforcing said stereotypes. It even adds new stereotypes:

By articulating various stereotypes associated with particular groups, emphasizing the salience of those stereotypes, and then calling for their suppression, they often end up reinforcing them in participants’ minds. Sometimes they even implant new stereotypes (for instance, if participants didn’t previously have particular stereotypes for Vietnamese people, or much knowledge about them overall, but were introduced to common stereotypes about this group through training intended to dispel said stereotypes).

Consider this result of teaching staff the horrors of white privilege. It promotes antagonism toward whites, and especially toward low income whites.

… an empirical investigation of ‘white privilege’ training found that it did nothing to make participants more sympathetic to minorities – it just increased resentment towards lower-income whites.

And, of course, increasing the importance of racial and ethnic characteristics, coupled with a push to ignore such characteristics produces a contradiction in terms. The result, people become less likely to cooperate across racial and ethnic lines-- because now they are living with a threat. If they say the wrong thing or look the wrong way they might be denounced for being a bigot.

Encouraging people to ignore racial and cultural differences often results in diminished cooperation across racial lines. Meanwhile, multicultural training — emphasizing those differences — often ends up reinforcing race essentialism among participants. It is not clear what the best position between these poles is (such that these negative side effects can be avoided), let alone how to consistently strike that balance in training.

It gets worse. If the programs declare discrimination to be rampant, they will encourage people to express bias or to discriminate actively. As al-Ghabri states, the programs tend to normalize bias:

Many diversity-related training programs describe bias and discrimination as rampant. One unfortunate consequence of depicting these attitudes and behaviors as common is that it makes many feel more comfortable expressing biased attitudes or behaving in discriminatory ways. Insofar as it is depicted as ubiquitous, diversity-related training can actually normalize bias.

Among the other ironies is this. If staff considers the company to perfectly woke, they are more likely to express bias and more likely to react negatively when members of disadvantaged groups complain:

For others, the very fact that the company has diversity-related training is proof that it is a non-biased institution. This perception often reduces concerns about bias and discrimination – by oneself or others. As a consequence, people not only become more likely to act in more biased ways, but they also react with increased skepticism and hostility when colleagues claim to have been discriminated against.

Diversity trainers tend to introduce a binary opposition between white and minority groups. And they introduce a special moral calculus, whereby whites are all bad and oppressed minorities are all good. Thus, in this culture war, the culture that presumably built the company is disparaged while the cultures that did not are exalted. You can see how this will introduce structural inefficiencies, by having whites feel guilt and by having members of marginalized groups feel better than they really are:

Diversity-related training programs often depict people from historically marginalized and disenfranchised groups as important and worthwhile, celebrating their heritage and culture, while criticizing the dominant culture as fundamentally depraved (racist, sexist, sadistic, etc.). People from minority groups are discussed in overwhelmingly positive terms, while people from majority groups are characterized as typically (and uniquely) ignorant, insensitive or outright malicious with respect to those who are different than them. Members of the majority group are told to listen to, and validate, the perspectives of people from historically marginalized or disadvantaged groups — even as they are instructed to submit their own feelings and perspectives to intense scrutiny.

The result is that many members from the dominant group walk away from the training believing that themselves, their culture, their perspectives and interests are not valued at the institution – certainly not as much as those of minority team members — reducing their morale and productivity.

Of course, enhanced sensitivity to the concerns of minority groups discourages engagements between advantaged and disadvantaged groups. Considering the adverse consequences of being accused of being a bigot and the uncertainty about which behavior constitute bigotry, the best solution is to disengage:

The training also leads many to believe that they have to ‘walk on eggshells’ when engaging with members of minority populations. By calling attention, not just too clear examples of harm and prejudice, but just as much (or more) to things like implicit attitudes and microaggressions, participants come to view colleagues from historically marginalized and disenfranchised groups as fragile and easily offended. As a result, members of the dominant group become less likely to try to build relationships or collaborate with people from minority populations.


trigger warning said...

Diversity training, like nearly every corporate training program I have ever personally witnessed or assessed (including the so-called "Six Sigma" and ISO 9001 courses), uses the number of people trained and/or "certified" as the chief metric for success. It all began with high school diplomas.

Nevertheless, I do believe that the corporate and government training seminar business is extremely lucrative.

Sam L. said...

My father-in-law ran a furniture store, and hired a Vietnamese boat person. He and his wife had 4 daughters, all went to college and did well. I don't recall what he did after he left the store, but I'm sure he did well.

The wokerati only think they're smarter than everyone else.

Anonymous said...

The race industry is very invested in racism continuing.

TwoDogs said...
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