Why You Shouldn’t Believe
Everything You Read
( 5 Studies We Reject)
THE STUDY: “Best Practices or Best Guesses?
Assessing the Efficacy of Corporate Affirmative
Action and Diversity Policies,” 2006
WHO WROTE IT: Alexandera Kalev, Unversity of
California; Frank Dobbin, Harvard University;
and Erin Kelly, University of Minnesota
SYNOPSIS: Diversity-training programs increase
managerial bias. Mentoring and employee-resource groups have modest, if any, benefit, and
even then only for certain groups. Researchers
acknowledge that organizational responsibility—
diversity staff and task forces—mitigates bias,
but they do not explain how or why.
● The study, which evaluates 708 establishments with diversity programs dating back to
the 1970s, measures diversity-related progress
by only one indicator: racial composition. Such
a narrow measure limits its explanatory value.
● Eighty percent of training programs discuss
legal compliance, framing diversity training as
THE STUDY: “Top Management-Team
Diversity and Firm Performance: Examining
the Role of Cognitions,” 2000
WHO WROTE IT: Martin Kilduff, Pennsylvania State
Smeal College of Business; Reinhard Angelmar,
INSEAD, The Business School of the World; and
Ajay Mehra, University of Cincinnati
SYNOPSIS: Cognitive diversity improves team productivity by spurring innovation through exploration
of divergent views. Demographic diversity has no
impact on performance outcomes. But can one type
of diversity be considered independently of another?
a defense mechanism instead of a proactive
● Lumps affirmative action and diversity in the
same category—an approach that positions
diversity as reactionary and compliance-driven.
The word “strategy” is not mentioned once in
the 29-page document, which suggests the
researchers may need to reevaluate their view
of the business case.
● Frames mentoring and employee-resource
groups as antidotes to “social isolation” rather
than avenues of professional development. It’s
not surprising these programs proved ineffective, given the context.
● Studies 35 simulated firms run by 159 managers
attending executive education programs. The lab setting limits application to the field.
● Does not assess the interplay of diverse attributes or
evaluate long-term group process. Demographic
diversity becomes less salient as groups work together
over time and develop more convergent views and