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A Terrible Disservice

An article in the New York Times today titled, What if Diversity Trainings Are Doing More Harm Than Good? concerned me to the point that I felt I had to write to the Times.


Times material is behind a paywall, so I can't simply paste the full article into this post but here are a few representative examples of mockery, debasement, vitriol, and tendentious reasoning dumped indiscriminately by the author.


"The only problem? There’s little evidence that many of these initiatives work. And the specific type of diversity training that is currently in vogue — mandatory trainings that blame dominant groups for D.E.I. problems — may well have a net-negative effect on the outcomes managers claim to care about."


"If diversity trainings have no impact whatsoever, that would mean that perhaps billions of dollars are being wasted annually in the United States on these efforts. But there’s a darker possibility: Some diversity initiatives might actually worsen the D.E.I. climates of the organizations that pay for them."


"...diversity trainings that are mandatory, or that threaten dominant groups’ sense of belonging or make them feel blamed, may elicit negative backlash or exacerbate pre-existing biases."


"The history of diversity trainings is, in a sense, a history of fads. Maybe the current crop will wither over time, new ones will sprout that are stunted by the same lack of evidence, and a decade from now someone else will write a version of this article. But it’s also possible that organizations will grow tired of throwing time and money at trainings where the upside is mostly theoretical and the potential downsides include unhappy employees, public embarrassment and even lawsuits."


Here's the note I wrote to the Times.


Jan. 17, 2023


I'm Carlos, a DEI practitioner who observes that there are many challenges with doing DEI meaningfully and manageably. I welcome analysis of the field and work as it evolves - whether the analysis is laudatory or exposes faults and flaws.

I was surprised and disappointed to see the piece on DEI in the Times today. It read more like a hit job than responsible journalism.

I offer this piece, Two Types of Diversity Training That Really Work from the Harvard Business Review, as but one readily available counterpoint to the tar-and-feather job done by Jesse Signal in their article.

Why was a Signal's piece allowed to run in the Times as it is? If such a clearly and ironically biased piece is going to be featured, where is the opportunity for readers to take in a (corrective) counterpoint? What kind of damage is done when a source like the Times countenances such an out-of-hand dismissal of efforts to improve inclusivity?

Another irony in Signal's piece is that he noted that Dr. King and his work were condemned while he was alive. Last week, yet another monument to Dr. King's worth and sacrifice was unveiled (in Boston).

As the world continues to get smaller and more diverse, the need for what we currently call DEI will only increase. Its methods will continue to unfold towards greater and greater clarity and efficacy, and those who mock and deride it (when did mockery and derision become a valid substitute for substantive and even-handed critique?) will be unveiled as who they truly are beneath the pretense of being responsible reporters.


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