This Makes Diversity Stick at Work

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Everybody wants diversity, but not everyone knows how to really support it, especially in the spaces where it's needed most. Well-intentioned allies can give lip service to an intersectional approach to hiring and helping their colleagues, yet anyone who's ever felt alone at a workplace can tell you that slogans simply aren't enough. Work cultures can change, luckily — and they can be shaped into something that's better for everyone.

Psychologists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have just released a study framing diversity in a different light, as a public health matter. By looking at awareness campaigns for issues like wearing a seatbelt or smoking cessation, they've found a remarkably effective way to encourage true adoption of diversity and inclusion policies. It starts with understanding what's really missing when diverse hiring and institutional support aren't prioritized.

"When we asked about what decreased their sense of belonging, they didn't complain so much about racial slurs or explicit forms of discrimination," said lead author Markus Brauer. "It was the distance, the lack of interest, the lack of caring that affected them."

Brauer's team devised a marketing campaign that utilizes a simple tactic to get everyone onboard with diversity as the norm. It's peer pressure — or peer normalization, at least. The marketing campaign simply showed diverse UW students in action, along with statistics about how much of the student body embraced and welcomed diversity. "The students belonging to marginalized groups tell us that they have an enhanced sense of belonging," Brauer reported. "They are less anxious in interactions with students from other ethnic groups."

It's one more bit of proof that leading by example really does pay off.