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The problem with diversity and inclusion initiatives

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As a woman working in a male-dominated field, I appreciate the efforts many organizations take to foster diverse and inclusive work environments. These efforts include establishing mentorship programs for female employees and tying executive and non-executive compensation to the attainment of target numbers or percentages of women in high-level leadership roles.  

While a 2021 McKinsey & Company study suggests that these efforts have been at least somewhat successful in increasing female representation, we must recognize that efforts focused primarily on increasing female representation do very little to reduce, and may even feed, gender stereotypes.

Research in a number of areas suggests that diversity and inclusion initiatives inadvertently signal that women need help to succeed. When trying to make sense of why this might be true, individuals tend to underestimate the prevalence of gender stereotypes and the obstacles they create. Doing so leads them to assume that women need help because they are less competent than their male peers (and, therefore, unlikely to succeed on their own merit), rather than because negative stereotypes put women at a systematic disadvantage.

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The views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of DiversityWork.com.


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