McKinsey and Company consultants estimate that U.S. corporations, universities, governments, and other organizations spend more than $8 billion a year on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training (Dixon-Fyle et al., 2020) for a myriad of reasons (Thomas & Ely, 1996). Yet, little scholarly attention has been paid to organizational outcomes from DEI training (Anand & Winters, 2008; Kalev & Dobbin, 2006).
This scholarship is a collaboration between social work scholars and institutional organizers to examine the effects of both racial equity workshops and monthly caucusing on knowledge of race and racism, systemic disparities, and biases; the applied skills learned; and planned personal and professional behavior of research participants.
This study employs a mixed-methods, multi-group pre- and post-test research design surveying two modalities: racial equity workshops and monthly caucuses. The online survey instruments were developed to assess changes in knowledge of key concepts regarding race and racism, personal values and beliefs, and skills/planned behavior/next steps and were co-created by experts in the field of survey research, racial equity trainers, and diverse members of both the local and university communities. Quantitative data were analyzed using t-tests and ANOVA and qualitative data were analyzed using the constant comparison method to deconstruct and unitize each response and identify emergent themes using the unitized comments (Bulmer 1979; Miles & Huberman, 1984).
Between February 19, 2015, and March 31, 2020, approximately 5,324 individuals registered for RMJJ’s 174 Racial Equity Workshops (REWs). Of those participants, 2,690 individuals participated in the workshop component of this study. For the caucus component, an online survey invitation was distributed and yielded 120 survey respondents who had participated in at least one caucus session between July 2013 – April 2021.
Most respondents (90.8%) indicated that they learned significant information regarding race, racism, bias, and US racial history. One specific task that respondents were given in the assessment was to define racism. Using constant comparison qualitative analysis, a consistent theme that emerged from these data was that respondents’ definitions typically began on a more individual-level before the training and included a more systemic-level perspective after the training. Eighty-five percent of REW participants reported that their knowledge regarding disproportionality across systems changed as a result of attending the workshop. Respondents defined implicit bias and two themes emerged from the data: 1) most REW participants acknowledged that everyone has these biases and 2) respondents noted the subconscious/ unconscious nature of implicit bias after the training. Almost all respondents (94%) indicated planned behavior change. Examples and themes across both modalities are included.
Conclusions and Implications
To date, little social work science has been applied to the complex problem and GCSW, Eliminate Racism. To battle racial and ethnic inequities and build solutions, we use data from 2,690 workshop attendees and 120 monthly caucus participants in addition to the extant literature to offer six evidence-based recommendations for social workers to implement DEI training and support their communities and organizations to foster more equitable decisions and workplaces.