Mad Men may have recently ended its TV run -- but the actual workplace of today may not be a far cry from its portrayal.
At least that’s what workforce data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a recent university study seem to support. The EEOC advises that in US companies with 100 or more employees, there has only been in increase in management roles for African-American men from 3 to 3.3% between 1985 and 2014, and up until 2000, the increase in white women in management jobs was only 7%. For other minorities, the numbers are even more dismal.
A new study on diversity training results in US workplaces
Frank Dobbin, professor of Sociology at Harvard University, and Alexandra Kalev, associate professor of Sociology at Tel Aviv University, shared the results of their study of diversity hiring with Harvard Business Review. They compiled three decades of data from 800 US companies, interviewing thousands of front line managers and executives to better understand this problem. Even though companies are spending millions of dollars in the development of improved diversity programs, in the wake of high profile lawsuits in the financial and technology markets, the programs still don’t work.
What’s the problem with current training initiatives?
Dobbin and Kalev say that, "Despite a few new bells and whistles, courtesy of big data, companies are basically doubling down on the same approaches they’ve used since the 1960s—which often make things worse, not better." One possible light at the end of the tunnel is when companies ease up on some of their attempts to control diversity with “policing” tactics. Their studies revealed that even with diversity training, promotion efforts, hiring assessments and performance ratings tied to recruitment limits, open grievance systems have given employees more power to defy management and bring forth frivolous claims. Now with a growing awareness of transgender issues, management needs a better way.
Despite education, discrimination still a problem
The EEOC reports that race and sex discrimination claims have not changed much between 1997 to 2015, but that claims for Title VII retaliation have doubled from 22.6% to 44.5%, meaning there are employers taking punitive actions against employees who report discrimination. Dobbin and Kalev advise that, “It’s more effective to engage managers in solving the problem, increase their on-the-job contact with female and minority workers, and promote social accountability.” Instead of merely giving the appearance of being diversity-minded, employers must use intervention carefully, limited to recruitment efforts and encouraging all employees to work together.
Policing diversity – it just doesn’t work
Mandatory training and enforcing the hiring of certain classes of people don’t work well. The Journal of Organizational Behavior published the results of a University of Toronto study, which showed that 60% of organizations made it mandatory for executive level managers to participate in diversity awareness training, but only 50% of non-managerial employers were made to participate in the same training. Even when managers participated voluntarily in diversity programs, they quickly forgot the material and returned to their pre-bias behaviors. When all other employees were asked to take diversity training, their demographics and understanding of the concept of diversity determined the outcome of changed values.
It’s clear that we still have work to do when it comes to teaching diversity and tolerance of others in the workplace, and in the world. Until diversity training programs catch up to this century, we can expect to see additional complaints and legal backlash.