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Best Practices or Best Guesses: Which Corporate Diversity Programs Work? . Frank Dobbin Harvard University, Department of Sociology. Excellence Empowered by a Diverse Workforce: Achieving Racial & Ethnic Equity in Chemistry Arlington, VA, September 26, 2007.

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Best Practices or Best Guesses:Which Corporate Diversity Programs Work?

Frank Dobbin

Harvard University, Department of Sociology

Excellence Empowered by a Diverse Workforce: Achieving Racial & Ethnic Equity in Chemistry

Arlington, VA, September 26, 2007

Thanks to the National Science Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation,

Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and to my collaborators, Alexandra Kalev, Erin Kelly, and Daniel Schrage


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White Men and Women in Management

White Men

White Women

National Sample of 829 Firms


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Minority Men and Women in Management

Black Men

Black Women

Hispanic Men

Asian Men

Hispanic Women

Asian Women


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Approaches to Diversity

  • Establish Responsibility (Theory of Bureaucracy)

    • Diversity Taskforce

    • Diversity Manager

  • Combat Bias (Cognitive Psychology)

    • Diversity Training

  • Alter Incentives (Agency Theory in Economics)

    • Diversity Evaluations

  • Combat Social Isolation (Network Theory)

    • Network Program

    • Mentor Program



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Which Programs Increase Diversity?

  • Establishing Responsibility

    • Diversity Taskforce

    • Diversity Manager

  • Combating Bias

    • Diversity Training

  • Altering Incentives

    • Diversity Evaluations

  • Combating Social Isolation

    • Network Program

    • Mentor Program

      • Another Instance of Establishing Responsibility?


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Part II: Transparency vs. Targeting

Formal, Transparent, Rules

  • Pro: Minimizes Discretion, Bias

  • Con: Disconnect – Practice Doesn’t Change

    Targeted Solutions

  • Pro: Pinpoint Problems

  • Con: Elicit Backlash


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Part II Conclusions: Transparency vs. Targeting

  • Transparency Has Small Effects

    • Hiring and Promotion Don’t Change?

    • Bureaucracy May Institutionalize Inequality

  • Targeting Increases Diversity

    • Focuses Attention on Change

    • Identifies Candidates


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What Can Academic Departments Do?

  • What Works in Firms?

    • Assign Responsibility Taskforces, Diversity Managers

    • Mentoring

    • Targeted Recruitment

  • What Doesn’t Work?

    • Diversity Training

    • Networking

    • Diversity Performance Evaluations

    • Transparency/ Bureaucracy



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