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Saturday, February 2, 2008
Two New Studies Sharply Criticize Many Workplace Diversity Programs
One of the studies--yet unpublished, but described in detail in a Washington Post article--analyzed 31 years' worth of data from 830 mid-sized to large workplaces and found that "the kind of diversity training exercises offered at most firms" were followed by a 7.5 percent drop in the number of women in management, a 10 percent drop in the number of black women in management, and a 12 percent drop in the number of black men in top positions. "Similar effects were seen for Latinos and Asians," the newspaper reported.
The study said that voluntary diversity training programs, which do not require employee participation and tend to be designed to promote some business goal, actually seemed to result in increased diversity in managerial ranks. The programs that were ineffective were the mandatory diversity training programs that many companies adopt out of fear of discrimination lawsuits. Alexandra Kalev, a Univerity of Arizona sociologist who headed up the research, told the newspaper that "forcing people to go through training creates a backlash against diversity."
A second study, by the Rand Corporation, says that many companies seem to look at diversity superficially--focusing on the numbers of people from one group or another in various positions--and fail to rethink how they do business so that their increased diversity makes them more productive and profitable and their employees happier.