Friday, June 18, 2021

Diversity Training Doesn't Work

This will not come as a surprise, but serious academic studies have shown that diversity training, the kind that has invaded corporate America like a pestilence, does not work.

Researchers Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev explain, via the Economist:

We have been speaking to employers about this research for more than a decade, with the message that diversity training is likely the most expensive, and least effective, diversity program around. But they persist, worried about the optics of getting rid of training, concerned about litigation, unwilling to take more difficult but consequential steps or simply in the thrall of glossy training materials and their purveyors. That colleges and universities in the United States persist in offering training to faculty and students, and even mandate it (29% of all schools require faculty to undergo training), is particularly surprising given that the research on the poor performance of training comes out of academia. Imagine university health centers continuing to prescribe vitamin C for the common cold…

By 2005, 65 percent of large firms offered diversity training. Consultants have heralded training as essential for increasing diversity, corporate counsel have advised that it is vital for fending of lawsuits and plaintiffs have asked for it in most discrimination settlements.

Yet two-thirds of human resources specialists report that diversity training does not have positive effects, and several field studies have found no effect of diversity training on women’s or minorities’ careers or on managerial diversity. These findings are not surprising. There is ample evidence that training alone does not change attitudes or behavior, or not by much and not for long.

In another context, it would be called, paying lip service. Note well, the goal has less to do with diversity and more to do with avoiding lawsuits. Diversity is big business for the legal profession.

The BBC reports (via Hot Air and Maggie’s Farm):

 In 2019, researchers examined various strategies to reduce implicit prejudice. They concluded that the kind of training which institutions tend to favour the most, such as “short, one-shot sessions that can be completed and the requisite diversity boxes ticked”, are unlikely to make a difference in the habits or long-term behaviour of participants.

Even larger efforts to reduce implicit bias formed over a lifetime show any positive effects tend to wear off after a few hours or days. Some researchers even suggest that asking people to fight stereotypes through training can make those stereotypes more prevalent in a person’s mind

Additionally, when employees feel like they’re being controlled, says Dobbin, organisational studies show they tend to react negatively. So, when diversity training is designated as mandatory – which Dobbin’s research found was the case at 80% of corporations in the US – employees can perceive these sessions as much less palatable than if they were voluntary.

Naturally, you are shocked to hear that telling people to fight stereotypes produces more stereotyping. Anyone who had been paying attention will quickly recall Dostoevsky-- yes, that Dostoevsky-- who pointed out that if you tell someone not to think of polar bears, if you insist over and over again that he not think of polar bears, in a short period of time he will be thinking of nothing other than polar bears.

We do not need to do too many mental contortions to understand why this is so. The person receiving this imperious command will need to think of polar bears, in order to know what it is he is not allowed to think of. 

Otherwise, diversity training is a rip off, conducted by people who know very little, engaged by corporate leaders in order to forestall lawsuits. 


Sam L. said...

It DOESN'T????? WHY am I not surprised... Bummed, I am not.

I spent 20 years in the AF. I had training in two different missile systems. There was no such thing as "diversity training", because we were taught that the liquid-fueled missiles were dangerous; VERY dangerous. (One blew up. In the launch duct. Blew the concrete and steel cover off. Completely not-reparable.) The solid-fueled missiles were totally different.

markedup2 said...

If you're going to list all the stupid, ineffectual things that are done to fend off lawsuits, you're going to need a bigger blog.

You could start with the "Do Not Remove" tags on everything with stuffing or the "do not use in bathtub" warnings on hairdryers. Have you visited California in the past few years? The "X is known to cause cancer" signs all over everything are another great example.

As for this "surprise", nagging is rarely an effective behavior modification technique. I will not deploy any stereotypes to attempt to guess the gender of the purveyors of this nagging.

Walt said...

Seems more logical that , if anything, it would create the exact opposite if its alleged intent—at best making people self-conscious around each other, walking on eggshells, or else downright hostile and resentful. And the stereotypes of both races are bizarre. If negatives of “whiteness” are said to be logical thinking, punctuality, and self-confidence (and in this “training,” they are), where does that leave non-whites? But Sam L, tsk tsk, you are stereotyping missile systems and clearly dealing in solid supremacy.