by Heidi Moore
Originally published: July 20, 2017
There’s new science-backed evidence that diversity training workshops work. For a paper set to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers decided to test their experimental “prejudice habit-breaking intervention” at STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) departments where women are historically underrepresented. Women are almost half of the U.S. workforce, but they’re 39% of chemists, 28% of environmental scientists, and 12% of civil engineers. In fact, 40% of women engineers quit the field or will never use their degree.
But researcher Susan G. Devine and her colleagues found that an intervention designed to break gender biases could make a difference. They split up 98 UW-Madison STEM departments into those who would receive a two-and-a-half hour gender bias-breaking workshop and a control group. Prior research into these type of interventions found that it would increase awareness of gender bias and foster a sense of belonging for the women who took it. But the researchers wanted to go one step further and the measure the structural impact of diversity training. They measured the increase in women hires in STEM departments that got the training.