In the case of D.E.I., Dr. Dobbin and Dr. Kalev warn that diversity trainings that are mandatory, or that threaten dominant groups’ sense of belonging or make them feel blamed, may elicit negative backlash or exacerbate pre-existing biases.
Many popular contemporary D.E.I. approaches meet these criteria. They often seem geared more toward sparking a revolutionary re-understanding of race relations than solving organizations’ specific problems. And they often blame white people — or their culture — for harming people of color. For example, the activist Tema Okun’s work cites concepts like “objectivity” and “worship of the written word” as characteristics of “white supremacy culture.” Robin DiAngelo’s “white fragility” trainings are intentionally designed to make white participants uncomfortable. And microaggression trainings are based on an area of academic literature that claims, without quality evidence, that common utterances like “America is a melting pot” harm the mental health of people of color. Many of these trainings run counter to the views of most Americans — of any color — on race and equality. And they’re generating exactly the sort of backlash that research predicts.
So what does work? Robert Livingston, a lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School who works as both a bias researcher and a diversity consultant, has a simple proposal: “Focus on actions and behaviors rather than hearts and minds.”
Dr. Livingston suggests that it’s more important to accurately diagnose an organization’s specific problems with D.E.I. and to come up with concrete strategies for solving them than it is to attempt to change the attitudes of individual employees. And D.E.I. challenges vary widely from organization to organization: Sometimes the problem has to do with the relationship between white and nonwhite employees, sometimes it has to do with the recruitment or retention of new employees and sometimes it has to do with disparate treatment of customers (think of Black patients prescribed less pain medication than white ones). #culture #diversity #recruitment #workplace #dei