Who Really Sets the Terms on Diversity at Work

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We run the risk of running the term "diversity" into the ground — it's crucial both to greater questions of justice and equity, and to ensuring better performance from a workplace's team. Given how long the deck has been stacked against so many kinds of people, it may seem obvious that any and all diversity is automatically good for everyone involved. That's not what the data suggests, though, and it could be doing more harm than good.


Psychologists at Princeton University have just released a paper looking at who really benefits from such measures in higher education; the findings may also apply more widely to businesses and other organizations. "Diversity and inclusion efforts seem to gain traction when they serve to advance majority group interests," said coauthor Stacey Sinclair. "Students, universities, and policymakers should consider cultivating a culture that values diversity for a more balanced mix of reasons."

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In short, D&I policies are often made by white stakeholders, and they tend to reap the most reward from them. The majority of white study participants tended toward a model of diversity that emphasizes an enriching individual experience which prepares that student to succeed; minority study participants gravitate toward models of diversity that emphasize justice and access to excellent education.


Ensuring justice and access through good hiring practices is possible; it just takes work and attention. When a workplace can live its values by making everyone feel truly welcome, appreciated, and accommodated, its employees tend to have better outcomes — which only means good things for the vision they're working toward.