Report: Workplace Diversity Policies 'Don't Help'

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 10, 2016 | Go to article overview

Report: Workplace Diversity Policies 'Don't Help'


Byline: Justin Wm. Moyer Washington Post

Report: Workplace diversity policies 'don't help'

Whether it's Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook or relatively unknown firms such as Camden Property Trust, Fortune's No. 1 "Best Workplace for Diversity" last year, businesses around the world are scrambling to show they know it's not OK to let white men run everything. That effort can take many forms -- from diversity trainings so devastatingly lampooned years ago in "The Office" to actually hiring and retaining minorities and women.

A controversial piece published this week in the Harvard Business Review now asks a simple question: "Are all of these efforts working?" For anyone who thinks diversity at work is important, the answer was a bit distressing.

"In terms of increasing demographic diversity, the answer appears to be not really," the piece, written by Tessa L. Dover, Cheryl R. Kaiser and Brenda Major, read. "The most commonly used diversity programs do little to increase representation of minorities and women."

That wasn't the end of the bad news. The three co-authors -- two professors and a Ph.D. candidate who study diversity -- concluded that diversity policies can 1) blind white men to racism and sexism at work and 2) lead to resentment.

"We found evidence that it not only makes white men believe that women and minorities are being treated fairly -- whether that's true or not -- it also makes them more likely to believe that they themselves are being treated unfairly," the piece read.

Reddit, where the piece found a wide audience, proved an outlet for the very resentment the article appeared to point to in the first place.

"Diversity programs and Diversity teams do not exist to solve an actual or perceived problem but rather exist to cover the companies [sic] ass to make it look like the company is doing 'something' to solve a 'problem,'" one commenter wrote. Another: "This is the effect it has had on me for sure. I try to ignore it because it is wrong, but my impulse anymore is to avoid all minorities that I am not directly introduced to." Yet another: "Diversity compliance teams are make-work projects for otherwise unemployable 'angry studies' graduates."

Reached by telephone, two authors of the article made a maneuver familiar to many professors who see their work leap from academic journals to social media: retreat. This stuff is, after all, more complicated than 140 characters.

"The headline for the piece is a little more strong than we would have chosen," Dover, a Ph.D. candidate in social psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said. "Our goal was not to come out as super strong saying 'diversity efforts don't work,' but just to point out the side of diversity management that people don't often talk about."

But Kaiser, an associate professor in the psychology department at the University of Washington, said that companies should be less concerned with the PR "window dressing" diversity programs can provide and more concerned with their actual effects. …

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