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How Could Diversity Training Be Improved? Data And Science, Researcher Says




Performers at The Groundlings Diversity Festival.
Performers at The Groundlings Diversity Festival.
Courtesy of The Groundlings

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As the nation and world reckon with a racist past, many workplaces and institutions have turned to diversity and inclusion training or workshops to bring people up to speed. But some argue those programs, which have been used for decades, haven’t proven successful.

A psychology professor and researcher at Harvard University questions the effectiveness of diversity trainings in a new piece published in Skeptic Magazine. She argues that while many programs have good intentions, they don’t show results and can even backfire and breed resentment within the workplace. Instead she favors a method that uses science and data. But some push back on the idea that diversity and inclusion workshops aren’t working.

Today on AirTalk, we discuss what works and doesn’t work with experts. What are your thoughts? Have you participated in a DEI training or workshop recently? What did you think? Join the conversation by calling 866-893-5722.

Michelle Kim, CEO and co-founder of Awaken, an Oakland-based organization that provides interactive diversity, equity and inclusion workshops; she tweets @mjmichellekim

Mona Sue Weissmark, psychology professor at Harvard University where she conducts research on the science of diversity, she wrote a recent piece looking at whether diversity training programs work and she’s the author of the new book “The Science of Diversity” (Oxford University Press, 2020); she tweets @MonaWeissmark

Note:  A clarification over an exchange that took place during this segment has been issued on the program the following day. The statement, from host Larry Mantle reads: "Near the end of yesterday's segment on diversity training, I referenced a criticism I've heard of some antiracism programs. And I gave the impression to some listeners that I was questioning the existence of systemic racism. I don't, I was attempting to represent one specific critique of diversity training: that is that systemic racism is commonly used to explain all unequal outcomes without examining multiple possible explanations, [which] cuts off honest conversations about race. I fully realized many institutions have entrenched racism and the people of color are harmed by those systems. So I wanted to clarify that and correct how I presented that."