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William Scarborough

Research Findings

Diversity policies: how workers feel about them and why

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October 7, 2019

Each year, firms invest millions of dollars in diversity programs aimed at increasing the representation and advancement of women and racial minorities. Sociologists have found that some of these programs work, and some do more harm than good. One key ingredient in whether diversity programs improve, or worsen, the representation of women and racial minorities is if these initiatives are supported by employees. Programs that are viewed positively by workers are more likely to produce the intended results, while those that are resisted may result in a backlash and actually make conditions worse for underrepresented groups.

In a recent study, we explored how people feel about different types of diversity programs and why they feel the way they do. We used data from a TESS (Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences) survey that asked nearly 2,000 working individuals whether they supported eight different diversity policies. The design of the survey allowed us to see if support differed based on whether policies are aimed at women or racial minorities, as well as if support differed based on if the policies were justified to improve diversity, address discrimination, or if no justification is given.

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