!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: How to Promote Diversity Within Management

Sunday, January 20, 2008

How to Promote Diversity Within Management

An article by Shankar Vedantam in today's Washington Post brings early word of a new study of what sort of diversity training actually helps increase diversity in management.

The authors of the study are Alexandra Kalev, Frank Dobbin, and Erin Kelly (KDK), sociology professors at the University of Arizona, Harvard, and the University of Minnesota, respectively. The key conclusion, according to Vedantam:
... mandatory programs — often undertaken mainly with an eye to avoiding liability in discrimination lawsuits — were the problem. When diversity training is voluntary and undertaken to advance a company's business goals, it was associated with increased diversity in management.
The effective diversity programs teach specific skills, "such as establishing mentoring relationships and giving women and minorities a chance to prove their worth in high-profile roles."

Vedantam spoke with Dobbin, who told him that
Women and minorities often fail to get ahead ... because people tend to form social groups with others who are like themselves — and many managers are simply unaware of the talent in their own organizations. Policies that require or explicitly encourage managers to meet with subordinates in different departments can alert managers to talented employees with different social and ethnic backgrounds and help younger employees figure out what they need to do to get ahead.
Kalev, Dobbin, and Kelly collaborated on an earlier study, “Best Practices or Best Guesses? Assessing the Efficacy of Corporate Affirmative Action and Diversity Policies” (pdf), which was published in 2006 in the American Sociological Review and reported by Time in April of last year. The key finding, according to Time:
... at companies that assigned a person or committee to oversee diversity, ensuring direct accountability for results, the number of minorities and women climbed 10% in the years following the appointment. Mentorships worked too, particularly for black women, increasing their numbers in management 23.5%. Most effective is the combination of all these strategies ...
I would add, based on my own observations, that part of making existing management accountable for increasing diversity among their ranks, is identifying any managers who are dragging their feet, and making clear to such individuals that actively assisting the diversity effort is a condition of continued employment.