Why diversity training on campus is likely to disappoint “A company is better off doing nothing than mandatory diversity training,”

Aug 6, 2020

The University of Florida will require all students, faculty and staff to undergo training on “racism, inclusion and bias.” Northeastern University will institute “cultural competency” and “anti-racism training” for every member of the campus community. And Ohio Wesleyan University will mandate “universal diversity, equity, and inclusion training.”

However, as scholars who study race and social inequality, we know that diversity training suffers from “chronically disappointing results.” Recent research in psychology even suggests that diversity training may cause more problems than it solves.

In terms of reducing bias and promoting equal opportunity, diversity training has “failed spectacularly,” according to the expert assessment of sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev. When Dobbin and Kalev evaluated the impact of diversity training at more than 800 companies over three decades, they found that the positive effects are short-lived and that compulsory training generates resistance and resentment.

“A company is better off doing nothing than mandatory diversity training,” Kalev concluded.

There is evidence, for example, that introducing people to the most commonly used readings about white privilege can reduce sympathy for poor whites, especially among social liberals.

There is also evidence that emphasizing cultural differences across racial groups can lead to an increased belief in fundamental biological differences among races. This means that well-intentioned efforts to celebrate diversity may in fact reinforce racial stereotyping.

The main beneficiaries of the forthcoming explosion in diversity programming will be the swelling ranks of “diversity and inclusion” consultants who stand to make a pretty penny. A one-day training session for around 50 people costs anywhere between US$2,000 and $6,000. Robin DiAngelo, the best-selling author of “White Fragility,” charges up to $15,000 per event.


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