by Patricia Thompson
Originally published: January 16, 2017
A couple of years ago I was invited to facilitate an offsite training for the diversity committee of a Fortune 500 company. In an era in which “diversity” has become a buzzword in the business world, the firm’s interest in the topic was both admirable and understandable. Research shows that having an inclusive and diverse workforce is associated with creativity and innovation, and exposure to racial diversity has been linked to greater problem-solving skills and expanded perspective. The diversity committee, which had been meeting for about six months, seemed interested in trying something new. I was told that they invited me to lead the session precisely because I wasn’t a “diversity trainer.”
Yet I was reluctant to accept the invitation. As a corporate psychologist with training in mindfulness, I have worked with many CEOs and senior executives to cultivate positive organizational culture, but the subject of diversity trainings is a tricky one. According to the sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, who have studied the effects of such trainings in approximately 830 U.S. companies over more than a decade, companies implementing compulsory training for managers actually showed a decline in employee minority representation.