Individuals and organizations across the U.S. seek a better understanding of race, racism, and bias (Devine et al., 2012). Some voluntarily attend workshops, such as Undoing Racism by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, whereas others are mandated to attend by their employers (e.g., Starbucks – 2018; Gucci – 2019). Yet, there is little evidence of the effectiveness of diversity trainings and workshops.
Dobbin and Kalev (2018) published, “Why Doesn’t Diversity Training Work? The Challenge for Industry and Academia.” They contend that (a) short-term educational trainings typically do not change individual behaviors, (b) some anti-bias workshops actually promote stereotypes, (c) diversity trainings can create a false confidence in participants who then become complacent in their own biases, (d) workshops can leave Whites feeling attacked or left out, and (e) often, individuals react negatively to efforts to change their values or beliefs. Moreover, studying diversity training in educational settings, Ngounou and Gutiérrez (2017) found that Americans’ beliefs about race and equity are too complex and entrenched to effectively address in a one-time workshop.
Building upon King, Gulick, and Avery (2010), Devine et al. (2012), and the idea that sustained transformative change requires participants to increase their knowledge, examine their values/beliefs, and practice new skills/behaviors; we developed a pre-/post instrument to assess changes in knowledge, reflections on values, and application of new skills. We sought to capture the knowledge presented in the racial equity workshops, plus the values reflection exercises, and the skill building practice sessions from the monthly university caucuses.
Mixed-methods were used in a pre- and post-test design to evaluate racial equity workshop attendees’ experiences. In order to ensure anonymity and confidentiality, a 5-digit code was created by the participants.
Between February 19, 2015 and June 30, 2019 there were 710 respondents with matched surveys, 23% (163) identify as male, 77% (547) identify as female, (0%) identified as other. The majority of the sample was White (432, 62%) and 238 (34%) as Black/African American. Thirty-six (5%) of the respondents identified as another race/ethnicity (disaggregated in the data). Respondents’ ages varied as 12% (86) individuals were 20-29; 28% (199) were 30-39; 28% (200) were 40-49; 20% (143) were 50-59; and 12% (82) were 60 years-old or older.
Generally, respondents work in the fields of Education (26%, 188), Social Services (16%, 111), Health (9%, 62), Law Enforcement (5%,37), or the Courts (9.8%, 70). A few were students (2.5%, 18) and 2.7% (19) were Not Currently Employed (19). The remainder work in another field and answered “Other” (29%, 205) (e.g., Government, Ministry, Child Advocacy).
The majority of respondents (83%) indicated that they learned significant information regarding race, racism, bias, and US racial history. Moreover, 91% of university caucus participants indicated they completed, and 88% learned from the values reflection exercises. Finally, 85% of university caucus participants responded that they have employed racial equity and anti-racism skills and strategies at work in the academy.
Significant conclusions and implications are presented for both the academy as well as industry.