Creating diverse schools and workplaces requires inclusion, not just numbers

March 1, 2018, Society for Personality and Social Psychology

New research shows when it comes to successfully engaging and including minorities in the workforce and schools, organizations need to focus on inclusion. Several social psychology researchers will share details of their results at the SPSP Annual Convention on March 2nd.

"Institutions tend to overemphasize numerical diversity to the exclusion of inclusion" says Erika Hall (Emory University), one of the presenters and co-chair of the symposium.

Inclusive Businesses

An organization can be diverse in numbers, yet minorities may still report feelings of discrimination. How does one go beyond this "numerical" diversity to true feelings of inclusion? Erika Hall surveyed 486 minority business owners from the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council to determine what might have an effect. Her research showed a high combination of authenticity coupled with increased levels of perceived significantly decreased major experiences of discrimination (B = -.17, p < .05). Without authenticity, racial diversity had no significant effect on feelings of discrimination.

"As a minority, part of the benefit of having people around you that look like you is that you may feel more comfortable enacting behaviors or discussing topics that are specific to your culture, and you may feel that you belong because other people like you are a part of the organizational culture."

These benefits are lost however, according to Hall, "if institutional constraints restrict you from bringing your whole, true self to work and dictate that you don't belong, numerical diversity will become obsolete."

Organizational attempts to be inclusive can lead to feelings of exclusions for other groups.

Tessa Dover (Portland State University) looked at the affect pro-diversity messages have for those in high status groups, in this study, white men. In a series of experiments, she and colleagues show that whites who imagined seeking a job were negatively affected by pro- messages and performed more poorly in potential job interviews. They expressed concerns of being treated unfairly, and of anti-white discrimination.

Inclusive Schools

Tiffany Brannon's (University of California, Los Angeles) research provides evidence that school settings can affirm identity among members of negatively stereotyped groups— by, for instance, incorporating diverse cultural ideas and practices within academic courses or extracurricular activities— and, in turn, afford an increased sense of inclusion.

Analyzing longitudinal datasets (N= 2,926 and N=1,255) of African American and Latino American college students Brannon's research demonstrates that such efforts to affirm identity is related to benefits among members of negatively stereotyped groups including better problem solving, increased task persistence, higher GPAs, and more positive health and well-being outcomes.

MarYam Hamedani (Stanford University) will discuss work on how difference-education interventions can successfully educate students about social difference and improve first-generation college students' grades.

Today's increasingly diverse and divided world frequently requires the ability to understand and navigate across social difference. Hamedani and colleagues propose that interventions that teach students about social difference can not only foster students' intergroup skills, but can also help disadvantaged students succeed in school.

"This study supports a growing body of work demonstrating that teaching students a contextual understanding of difference—i.e., recognizing that people's differences come from participating in and adapting to diverse sociocultural contexts—can be leveraged to foster student success and close achievement gaps," summarizes Hamedani.

Explore further: School climate and diversity may affect students' delinquent behaviors

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