Dobbin was particularly disappointed to see that grievance systems are actually harmful to diversity efforts. “Normally it’s not the manager you complain about that leaves, it’s you,” said Dobbin. “Our data suggest that companies with these systems in place retaliate against whole groups of people. I just find that devastating.”

Often, companies persist with ineffective initiatives because many don’t realize they are not working. For others, training seems like an easy solution.

“You don’t have to change anything about the organization. You can just hire someone to come in and do it.” Despite its inefficacy, training has become a de facto requirement. “If you don’t do it,” Dobbin says, ”people ask you why you don’t,” because so many other companies do.

People just don’t know a lot about other options.

Dobbin says the first step towards effective diversity and inclusion programs is establishing a task force. “Get them to start thinking about how to solve the problem by looking at the data,” he advises. Only 20% of the companies he and Kalev studied had task forces. “Companies have very good HR information systems now, so mostly they can track what the problem is…A task force can look at the data and try to figure out where the problems are, and try to brainstorm solutions.”

Of course, that’s if management is even willing to acknowledge something needs to change. “It’s still mostly white men that are in the decision-making positions. A lot of those men think there isn’t anything wrong with their firm. And I think that’s one of the biggest obstacles that companies face.”

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