Mythbuster – Diversity Training Encourages Reverse Discrimination

By Kathryn Adderley
04 Sep 2018

There are some employees who feel that participating in diversity training is an attack on their race, gender, and sexuality. The term ‘reverse discrimination’ essentially means a majority group is discriminated against in favour of a minority group.

While it is impossible to generalise about every diversity training program in every workplace, it should be said that if the program assigns blame, or makes any group feel guilty, then the training is bad.

The purpose of diversity training is to encourage inclusivity and equality among all groups. Encouraging communication, learning to listen and speak with one another- regardless of difference, is more helpful that dividing employees and highlighting their differences. Some studies have shown that separating individuals by category actually encourages divisions and stereotypes, including those of majority groups.

Diversity training should be tailored to the workforce, in particular, based on empathy level. If your workforce is comprised largely of individuals who lack empathy would benefit most from first-hand perspectives from minority groups. To enforce these views, having an authority figure within the business echo them is highly important, as it reinforces an inclusive mind-set.

The other side

I recently read an article in The Spectator that claimed diversity training is ‘hokum’. Why? Because unconscious bias does not exist—or rather—it exists, but the opposite way. Straight, white men are supposedly so afraid of being labelled racist, sexist, or homophobic that they actively favour hiring employees from minority groups. According to this article, minority groups are not on a level playing field when it comes to their career, they are in fact—a step ahead.

With recent news, such as the need to have more women in boardrooms, it is easy to see how this view could be perpetuated, as it appears to favour the hiring of one group over another for the sake of appearance. For those with this view, it is worth taking a step back, and taking a look at this ‘level-playing field’.

The gender pay gap reports this year highlights that women are by no means dealing with equal standards in the workplace. Although there hasn’t been a government enforced ethnicity pay gap yet, the few firms that have published them show that those of BAME origins are also paid less, and are few in number in senior positions. The National LGBT Survey in July highlighted that LGBT individuals still face a considerable amount of discrimination in the workplace, and that steps still need to be taken.

So no—the playing field is not level. It has been tipped one way for a very long time. All we are seeing now is the gradual tilt from imbalance to equality.

Diverse Hiring

Hiring based on gender, ethnicity, or sexuality is a form of bias, but so long as the decision to hire isn’t based on those factors alone, there is no harm in doing so. If anything, it is beneficial to business, as CEO of Tyche Leadership Consulting, Nikki Watkins explains:

“Is it your goal to hire women just to meet quotas, or is it that, at a strategic level, the company needs to see a certain level of growth? A recent report by McKinsey indicated, for example, that the top 25% of companies in terms of gender diversity were 15% more likely to see financial returns than their peers, while for firms excelling in ethnic diversity, the figure was more like 35%. So boardrooms are now starting to sit up and realise that diversity is good for business.”

Diversity is good for business, and good for wellbeing. Diversity training is simply a means to reinforce this, and create an atmosphere that all employees can be comfortable in. Reverse discrimination can and does happen, but should never be encouraged by training. If you believe discrimination of any group is occurring, take action, and re-adjust your training.

For more information and HR advice on diverse hiring, discrimination or any other HR issue, contact Croner on 0808 145 3377


About the Author

Kathryn Adderley

Kathryn Adderley is Croner's Senior Content Executive, responsible for producing, sourcing, and organising content across the website. She has a background of working agency side as a copywriter in the marketing industry and is also responsible for Croner's social media channels, so keep your eyes peeled for fresh content!

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