Getting to Diversity
What Works and What Doesn't
by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev
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Pub Date 13 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 20 Oct 2022
Harvard University Press, Belknap Press
In an authoritative, data-driven account, two of the world’s leading management experts challenge dominant approaches to increasing workplace diversity and provide a comprehensive account of what really works.
Every year America becomes more diverse, but change in the makeup of the management ranks has stalled. The problem has become an urgent matter of national debate. How do we fix it? Bestselling books preach moral reformation. Employers, however well intentioned, follow guesswork and whatever their peers happen to be doing. Arguing that it’s time to focus on changing systems rather than individuals, two of the world’s leading experts on workplace diversity show us a better way in the first comprehensive, data-driven analysis of what succeeds and what fails. The surprising results will change how America works.
Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev draw on more than thirty years of data from eight hundred companies as well as in-depth interviews with managers. The research shows just how little companies gain from standard practice: sending managers to diversity training to reveal their biases, then following up with hiring and promotion rules, and sanctions, to shape their behavior. Almost nothing changes. It’s time, Dobbin and Kalev argue, to focus on changing the management systems that make it hard for women and people of color to succeed. They show us how the best firms are pioneering new recruitment, mentoring, and skill training systems, and implementing strategies for mixing segregated work groups to increase diversity. They explain what a difference ambitious work-life programs make. And they argue that as firms adopt new systems, the key to making them work is to make them accessible to all—not just the favored few.
Powerful, authoritative, and driven by a commitment to change, Getting to Diversity is the book we need now to address constructively one of the most fraught challenges in American life.
Frank Dobbin is Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. His books include Inventing Equal Opportunity and The Global Diffusion of Markets and Democracy (with Beth Simmons and Geoffrey Garrett). Alexandra Kalev is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University. Her award-winning paper “Cracking the Glass Cages?” shows how self-managed teams help women to display their talents and move into management.
“Most companies say they want to advance diversity and equity, but they resort to using the same old unsuccessful strategies. In many cases, this is undoubtedly because leaders are uncertain about which approaches really work. Fortunately, Dobbin and Kalev have written an accessible, engaging book that documents which initiatives actually help organizations better reflect the diverse society in which we live—so if you don’t know, now you know! Getting to Diversity is the book all leaders need to read to achieve results.”—Adia Wingfield, Washington University in St. Louis
“Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev upended the conventional wisdom of diversity and inclusion practitioners with their seminal article ‘Why Diversity Programs Fail.’ Now they’re back with a data-driven book about one of corporate America’s most pressing contemporary issues, offering up required reading that is certain to shift the paradigm once again. Bottom line: Firms can’t outlaw bias, but they can make real systems change to achieve better representation and inclusion—change the system to install better inputs if you’re serious about improving outputs.”—Ben-Saba Hasan, Global Chief Culture, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Walmart Inc.
“Getting to Diversity makes good on the promise of its title. Years of research by Dobbin and Kalev have yielded concrete answers to questions about what is needed to achieve diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforces. Among the critical solutions they offer are ways to end sexual harassment and to democratize leadership opportunities—both keys to systemic, lasting, positive reform. The case for diversity and inclusion has been well established, and this book shows leaders how they can realize change.”—Anita Hill, University Professor, Brandeis University, and author of Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence