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How to get diversity initiatives right

Sharon Florentine | March 15, 2017
New research shows that the tech industry is still struggling to make progress on diversity and inclusion issues. Here are some strategies to get it right.

Even some tech companies' shareholders are bringing the issue to the attention of company boards to encourage hiring more diverse talent, especially at the board level. Tony Maldonado, an Apple shareholder, recently put forward a proposal asking the company to implement an accelerated recruitment policy that would require Apple to increase the diversity of senior management and its board of directors.

"A lack of diversity not only shapes the culture and future of the company but hurts its bottom line and has larger long-term ripple effects given how embedded technology is in our daily lives. Investors are beginning to wake up to the diversity problem that has plagued the tech industry for so many decades," says Maldonado in a statement about his proposal. Maldonado's proposal was rejected.

Unknown initiatives

While the Indeed research showed that almost half (48 percent) of organizations have diversity and inclusion initiatives, 21 percent of respondents say their company does not have such initiatives and an additional 31 percent are unsure. When asked what meaningful action their company is taking to recruit and retain a diverse workforce, 57 percent of respondents didn't know what actions their company was taking, and 25 percent say their company wasn't taking any meaningful action.

This lack of awareness about diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the lack of results, are a major problem, says Mukherjee, though the fact that so many organizations are trying to address the issue is promising.

"It has to start with awareness and with training and education. It's not that one unconscious bias training is going to be a quick fix, but as more workers and managers become aware, that helps push the issues to the forefront," he says.

What works and what doesn't

What works and what doesn't when it comes to diversity training? New research from the University at Buffalo School of Management finds that diversity training can be successful, but that results vary widely based on the content and length of training and whether it was accompanied by other related initiatives, says Kate Bezrukova, PhD and associate professor of organization and human resources in the UB School of Management.

Bezrukova and her fellow researchers examined more than 40 years of research, combining data from 260 studies and more than 29,000 participants across a variety of fields. They found diversity training had immediate positive effects on participants' knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to diverse groups. Over time, however, their attitude and behavioral changes decayed or reverted, while their cultural knowledge remained consistent or even increased.


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