Kellogg faculty share insights on how to build and sustain DEI initiatives.
A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Reading List
Many organizations want to build a workplace that works for everyone. But simply wanting DEI efforts to succeed isn't enough; companies must take a systematic approach to ensuring that they succeed. Read on for some of our favorite advice from Kellogg faculty about the biases that hold diversity efforts back, and how organizations can combat them.
This powerful conversation between Nicholas Pearce, a clinical professor of management and organizations at Kellogg, and Ginny Clarke—then-director of executive recruiting at Google, now a talent consultant, speaker, podcaster, and writer—occurred in the weeks after George Floyd’s murder. Pearce and Clark have a frank exchange about the limits of most corporate diversity programs, how racism is everyone’s problem, and what it takes to “show up” and be successful as a Black professional in America.
- More of their conversation was captured in this episode of our The Insightful Leader podcast.
College Campuses Are Becoming More Diverse. But How Much Do Students from Different Backgrounds Actually Interact?
Nicole Stephens, a professor of management and organizations at Kellogg, sees a blind spot in the way that many organizations still view diversity. “I think many schools and workplaces focus on the idea of getting people in the door and increasing diversity based on race, socioeconomic status, gender, and so on,” she says. “But far less attention is paid to what happens after we get people in the door.”
In this study, Stephens and her collaborators explore the diversity of people’s actual interactions at American Universities. They find that a diverse organization is not by itself enough to foster interactions across social-group divides.
“We need to think about how to intentionally create systems to ensure that people are actually interacting across differences and have the potential to benefit from those differences,” she says.
These days, corporate diversity training programs are a dime a dozen. But do they actually work? And if not, what might? Ivuoma Onyeador, an assistant professor of management and organizations, and her colleagues combed through the scientific research and found a few surprises. For instance, common training programs designed to tackle implicit biases do not reliably reduce bias in the long term—and may actually make people feel less responsible for their own behavior. However, the evidence is more favorable for other strategies. In this article, Onyeador explains science-backed recommendations for leaders looking to go beyond training programs.
- If you are going to offer diversity training to your employees, there’s plenty you can do to make that training as useful as possible. Check out Onyeador’s advice, steeped in the latest research, here.
In new research, Kellogg’s Brian Uzzi and Ben Jones find that the gender mix on teams matters. Mix-gender teams produce more novel and impactful scientific research than teams made up of only men or women. In fact, “the more gender-balanced the team is, the better the team does,” says Uzzi.
“The first step in creating a more equitable workplace is understanding where and how your company’s disparities begin to emerge,” writes Nicole Stephens, a professor of management and organizations at Kellogg. “This understanding requires putting aside assumptions about what you think is causing those disparities and instead focusing on the data.” Stephens explains how leaders can do just this: gather data at critical moments and use it to make sense of how disparities creep into an organization. Next, she says, they can design policies that target those disparities—and test them to see if they’re working. Throughout, Stephens points to helpful real-world examples, from Google’s success at making promotions more equitable to Yale’s failed experiment with blinded resumes.
- Go even deeper down the data rabbit hole with this fascinating piece by Brian Uzzi on using AI in service of “diversity, merit, and fairness.”
When elite firms decide to hire the best and brightest, they don’t intentionally seek out applicants from the most privileged backgrounds. But it usually happens anyway. Such is one of the conclusions of Lauren Rivera’s extensive study of the hiring practices of elite banks, consultancies, and law firms. Rivera, a professor of management and organizations at Kellogg, conducted in-depth interviews with hiring managers at several firms. She even embedded herself within the HR group of one firm, providing her a front row seat to how hiring decisions are made. And what she learned was eye-opening. She describes five of the biases that contribute to “elite reproduction” in organizations.
- For more on this topic, watch a webinar with Rivera on the dangers of hiring for cultural fit.
Don’t let your assumptions get in the way of promoting the right people, either. In this article, Kellogg’s Ellen Taaffe offers her take on how to make organizations more inclusive. Taaffe, a clinical assistant professor of management and organizations, points out that attempts to protect an employee considered vulnerable—say, a new mother back from maternity leave—from a stretch assignment that is likely to be challenging or work-intensive can ultimately hurt them instead. “It may seem well-intentioned, but it leaves the employee out of the discussion,” she says.
Company culture starts at the top. So it’s no surprise that the racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of boards is now under scrutiny. But for many organizations, diversifying boards is often easier said than done. In this article, Angelique Power and Sophia Shaw offer advice to corporations and nonprofits alike. Power, current president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation and former president of the Field Foundation, and Shaw, an adjunct professor in Kellogg’s sustainability and social impact program, both sit on several boards themselves. So their advice about how to reexamine criteria for board membership—and make space for new candidates without losing institutional knowledge—comes from hard-won experience.
- Of course, not all companies are exactly eager to diversity their boards. And here in the U.S., legislative mandates and quotas around board composition are not yet common. But an interesting study by Kellogg’s David Matsa suggests that another factor can be quite effective at moving the needle on board diversity: investor demands.
- Here’s something else to keep in mind: diversity at the top won’t automatically lead to more diverse leaders throughout the organization, according to work by Kellogg’s Nicola Persico. Not unless there’s a broader shift in informal norms and attitudes. “If you change the formal mechanism of representation, but you don’t change the culture of an organization, then change is not going to happen,” says Persico.