How Effective Is Diversity Training?

I’ve complained about so-called diversity training before. The blog House of Eratosthenes quotes a Washington Post report on a study.

Most diversity training efforts at American companies are ineffective and even counterproductive in increasing the number of women and minorities in managerial positions, according to an analysis that turns decades of conventional wisdom, government policy and court rulings on their head.

This was not a minor study, which was undertaken by the U. of Arizona. It spanned 31 years and over 800 mid-sized to large companies.

The study did find that it made a difference if the training was mandatory or voluntary.

[I]t showed that mandatory programs — often undertaken mainly with an eye to avoiding liability in discrimination lawsuits — were the problem. When diversity training is voluntary and undertaken to advance a company’s business goals, it was associated with increased diversity in management.

Why would a company spend money and resources on training that it knows is ineffective? Can you say, law suits? Oh – excuse me. They are responding rationally to the legal environment.

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