The good news: There is a huge body of knowledge on what works and what doesn’t. There are hundreds of studies published in diversity science journals with relevant findings.
The bad news: Many Diversity & Inclusion approaches to-date reflect a very superficial understanding, if not outright misunderstanding, of this complex body of knowledge. This has led to widespread failure of D&I efforts. Organizations are not only wasting resources – in many cases, things have gotten worse.
Diversity & Inclusion trainers and consultants do not need to be diversity scientists. However, they do need to find a way to ensure that their approach reflects current knowledge. Before signing up for training or consulting ask yourself a few questions.
Ask About The Evidence
- How do you make your training/recommendations consistent with the scientific evidence?
- How do you translate the scientific evidence into your practice?
- How do you link the lived experience of participants with structural racism, sexism…?
- Who is involved in the process and what are their qualifications?
- What challenges have you experienced?
Ask About The Potential Triggers
- How do you avoid triggering stereotype threat in different climates (i.e. employees, patients, clients, students)?
- How do you ensure that your trainings & intervention prevent counter-productive levels of anxiety and stress?
Ask About Possible Negative Impacts
- What are some potential unintended negative consequences of your approach/recommendations and how do you prevent them?
Ask About Continuous Improvement
- How often do you revise or update your approach in response to new evidence?
There is a robust body of scientific evidence on the effectiveness and possible unintended negative impacts associated with various intervention strategies. It is not just a matter of wasting resources on ineffective approaches, but also identifying the potential for unintended negative effects. New studies emerge regularly that advance our understanding of diversity and inclusion.
They minimize concerns about unintended negative effects. Either they don’t know enough to be concerned (be afraid, very afraid) or they don’t care.
They imply that they can change exclusion and/or implicit (unconscious, automatic) biases through education and self-awareness.
They think teaching about white privilege is an effective strategy for promoting deep inclusion.
They do not describe a strategy for minimizing backlash or white “racist” identity threat.
They are dismissive of the evidence from the diversity sciences and/or the researchers conducting the studies. This is very dangerous brand of ignorance.
They do not have an evaluation plan and/or consider collection of “satisfaction” data sufficient.