Opinion | Are Workplace Diversity Programs Doing More Harm Than Good?

Produced by ‘The Argument’

It’s time to rethink what’s working in the modern workplace and what’s failing. Amid a pandemic that overturned how so many work, increased calls for racial and social justice put a new pressure on companies to ensure — or at least to seem as if they ensure — equality among their employees. Diversity, equity and inclusion (D.E.I.) programs are an increasingly popular solution deployed by management. But do these initiatives do marginalized employees any good? And who are the true beneficiaries of diversity programs, anyway?

Jane Coaston has spent years on the receiving end of diversity initiatives, and for that reason, she’s skeptical. To debate D.E.I. programs’ efficacy, she brought together Dr. Sonia Kang, an associate professor of organizational behavior and human resource management who studies identity, diversity and inclusion at the University of Toronto, and Lily Zheng, a D.E.I. strategy consultant and public speaker, to argue what works and doesn’t when it comes to making workplaces fair for all.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Argument” on Apple, Spotify or Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

Mentioned in this episode:

Sonia Kang’s podcast, “For the Love of Work,” episode “Leaning Into Diversity, Equity and Belonging”

Lily Zheng, Harvard Business Review, “How to Show White Men That Diversity and Inclusion Efforts Need Them”

Kim Tran, Harper’s Bazaar, “The Diversity and Inclusion Industry Has Lost Its Way”

Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, “Why Diversity Programs Fail”

The Washington Post, “To improve diversity, don’t make people go to diversity training. Really.”

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

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“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett, Elisa Gutierrez and Vishakha Darbha and edited by Alison Bruzek and Sarah Geis; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair; music by Isaac Jones and mixing by Erick Gomez; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

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