Why Do Diversity Programs Fail?

People who are made to feel ashamed or blamed will lose the desire to change.

Posted Jan 09, 2018

Footage Firm, Inc.
Source: Footage Firm, Inc.

Three decades of studies examining hundreds of U.S. companies and interviews with employers and executives suggest that diversity training programs actually increase bias.  

Diversity training programs are designed to prevent lawsuits by policing people's behaviors. Yet studies suggest that mandatory diversity  programs can trigger bias rather than eliminate it. 

Laboratory studies show that people become resentful when they are forced to adopt behaviors. Most people resist being told how to think and behave and, therefore, will assert their autonomy. 

Bias cannot simply be ordered away. When people are made to feel ashamed or are blamed for "bad" behaviors, they will lose their desire to change.  

The shame and blame type of diversity training programs ignore everything social scientists know about the biological need to maintain our individual identities and our preferences for people who are like "us." 

In a recent interview with radio talk show host Ethan Bearman, I talk about my new book The Science of Diversity. I describe some learning tools that are effective for engaging people to actively participate in conversations on diversity. These learning tools (unlike the training programs that police peoples' behaviors) are effective for engaging people to understand, appreciate, and respect each other.

References

Weissmark,M. (forthcoming). The Science of Diversity. Oxford University Press, USA.

Weissmark, M. (2004). Justice Matters: Legacies of the Holocaust and World War II. Oxford University Press, USA.

Weissmark, M. & Giacomo, D. (1998). Doing Psychotherapy Effectively. University of Chicago Press, USA.