We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Diversity Training Doesn’t Work

27th April 2012

Read it.

Over the years, there had been a number of incidents at Bedia in which individuals had felt misunderstood, mistreated, or disrespected. Eventually, someone sued.

My, what a surprise. Aren’t you surprised? I’m sure surprised.

All it takes is one I’m-the-victim whiner and your diversity training (and the expense of it) goes down the drain.

Diversity training doesn’t extinguish prejudice. It promotes it.

No shit. Nothing solidifies prejudice like making a big deal out of it — as, say, diversity training does.

A study of 829 companies over 31 years showed that diversity training had “no positive effects in the average workplace.” Millions of dollars a year were spent on the training resulting in, well, nothing. Attitudes — and the diversity of the organizations — remained the same.

It gets worse. The researchers — Frank Dobbin of Harvard, Alexandra Kalev of Berkeley, and Erin Kelly of the University of Minnesota — concluded that “In firms where training is mandatory or emphasizes the threat of lawsuits, training actually has negative effects on management diversity.”

Nothing solidifies prejudice like making a big deal out of it — as, say, diversity training does.

But it’s deeper than that. When people divide into categories to illustrate the idea of diversity, it reinforces the idea of the categories.

Which, if you think about it, is the essential problem of prejudice in the first place. People aren’t prejudiced against real people; they’re prejudiced against categories. “Sure, John is gay,” they’ll say, “but he’s not like other gays.” Their problem isn’t with John, but with gay people in general.

But the ‘experts’ either don’t know that (they’re ignorant) or won’t admit it (they’re prejudiced — there’s irony for you).

Categories are dehumanizing. They simplify the complexity of a human being. So focusing people on the categories increases their prejudice.

And making a big deal out of ‘diversity’ just demonstrates to people that they live and work with a lot of strangers, because if you didn’t, nobody would make a big deal of diversity. ‘Let’s celebrate the fact that we have all these minorities here!’ merely causes people to focus on how many minorities you have here. This is not a strategy destined for success.

One Response to “Diversity Training Doesn’t Work”

  1. RealRick Says:

    When I worked in a refinery, the crew referred to diversity training as “Charm School”. Anyone punished by being sent to training would have to endure weeks of lunches were the nearby workers all put their little finger in the air as they drank.

    Did it work? No. They learned all the proper things to say in Charm School to satisfy the HR folks and get back in the plant after they “hurt” someone’s feelings. (99% of the time, “someone” was black; 98% of the time, female and black.)