Harvard sociology professor Frank Dobbin’s lecture, “Why Diversity Programs Don’t Work,” packed the room for the Center for Race and Social Problems’ first talk of the fall. While Dobbin said the news about current diversity efforts in business is indeed grim, there also are different methods, less widely deployed, that actually work to increase diversity among corporate managers.
“We had until recently no evidence on whether existing practices … do anything to promote diversity,” especially anti-bias training and creating tests for applicants and those who wish to advance, said Dobbin. He labeled these types of efforts “not only ineffective, they are counterproductive,” leading to a backlash from white managers who do most of the hiring. White managers respond negatively to diversity programs, he said: Their attitudes toward minorities improve slightly, but their behavior worsens, as measured by subsequent hiring.