Do diversity and anti-bias trainings and policies work?

Updated: Feb 13, 2019


Starbucks recently closed 8000 stores for an afternoon so that employees could go through [diversity/anti-bias] training. What results can the company expect for its efforts?

Though diversity programs were created to minimize bias and discrimination and promote greater understanding and acceptance among different ethnic and gender groups, they have been found to be ineffective.[1]Several factors contribute:

The stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes that prompt discriminatory behaviors are deeper than a short-term anti-bias or diversity training can change.

1. Many people think diversity and anti-bias policies were implemented to avoid litigation, rather than to promote diversity among people. Some sincerely believe those hired are more capable.


2. Research show that when organizations have diversity and anti-bias training and policies, people in the company may become complacent because the policy exists and discount claims of being treated unfairly as exaggerated.[2]

3. Most people like to be with people similar to themselves.We don’t like to think we have prejudice or negative preconceptions of others. Yet gravitating and feeling more comfortable with those like us seems to be natural for humans.[3]

4. Real change doesn’t happen in an afternoon. The stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes that prompt discriminatory behaviors are deeper than a short-term anti-bias or diversity training can change. We may not even be aware of these attitudes, much less be able to wave a magic wand and make lifelong beliefs change in the name of anti-bias training.

Diversity and bias training programs and policies were developed on a large scale after women and minorities won several large lawsuits in the financial services area about ten years ago. Yet since then, these groups have not been hired in significant numbers. In fact, many companies have fewer women and minorities than they did before the training programs were implemented.[4]

Executive Advisors has worked successfully with a variety of organizations in implementing deep, long-lasting changes in attitudes and behavior.

If diversity training doesn’t work, what can organizations do to foster mutual tolerance and respect? Three practices can reduce prejudice and negative stereotypes:


1. Provide opportunities to work on projects with others from diverse ethnic and gender backgrounds (similar to the impact of soldiers serving together resulting in greater empathy and understanding),


2. Have a diversity officer who reports the expanding diversity of the organization to the top of the company on a regular basis, and


3. Establish a mentor program for minority men and women.[5]


Executive Advisors has worked successfully with a variety of organizations in implementing deep, long-lasting changes in attitudes and behavior. Through this transformative work, individuals and teams are experiencing greater mutual respect than ever before. For information on our work, contact lillif@executiveadvisors.com.






#diversity #starbucks #antibiastraining #executiveadvisors


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