Diversity Training Isn't Increasing Diversity

Diversity Training Isn't Increasing Diversity


Diversity training is a cornerstone of many workplace diversity strategies in an attempt to reduce unconscious bias and increase workplace diversity. But research shows that many of these programs have not been effective at increasing workplace diversity or reducing unconscious bias.



Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev have conducted extensive research on the effectiveness of corporate diversity programs. They analyzed over 30 years of data from a sample of over 800 U.S. companies to assess the effects of diversity management programs, such as diversity awareness training, on increasing workforce diversity in the managerial ranks in U.S. companies.

They point out that while nearly all Fortune 500 companies and close to 50% of mid-sized companies use diversity training, the research shows that mandatory diversity training programs yield limited, and sometimes negative, results. They highlight how such training programs sometimes spark backlash and have had little impact on increasing the proportion of women and racial and ethnic minorities in the managerial ranks of companies.

On the flip side, Dobbin and Kalev discuss which workplace diversity efforts have had a positive impact. They discovered through their research that the most effective approaches to increasing workplace diversity in the management ranks tend to focus on engaging people to voluntarily participate in programs (including voluntary training), increasing contact among people from diverse groups (think diverse workplace teams), and promoting social accountability. 




Dobbin, Frank, & Alexandra Kalev, Why Diversity Programs Fail: And What Works Better, Harvard Business Review, July-Aug. 2016, pp. 52-60.