One measure to address the under-representation of women in academia is diversity training. However, although the academic literature on diversity training is extensive, empirical evidence on the change of behavior is limited. While several studies suggest that diversity training might result in a change in attitudes, evidence on behavior change is limited. Chang et al. (2019) conducted a large field experiment in a global organization and failed to show behavioral changes.
The evidence in academic settings is limited, studies are mostly rather small-scaled. Nevertheless, the findings on the success of diversity training seem to be more promising. In three consecutive studies, Devine et al. found that diversity training at a U.S. university resulted in attitude and behavior changes — more women were hired after the training. Also, Smith et al. (2015) report a behavior change in a small scale study at another U.S. university after faculty participated in diversity training. Moss-Racusin et al. established in three consecutive studies, that diversity training led to significant attitude change toward biases to women in STEM. For academic medicine Carnes et al. and Girod et al. both show significant attituted changes and Carnes et al. also self reported behavior changes and faculty expressed greater perceptions of fit, valuing of their research, and comfort in raising personal and professional conflicts after the intervention.
General findings - Diversity training in a non-academic setting
Chang, E. H., Milkman, K. L., Gromet, D. M., Rebele, R. W., Massey, C., Duckworth, A. L., & Grant, A. M. (2019). The mixed effects of online diversity training. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(16), 7778-7783.
Large field experiment (n = 3,016) at a global organization testing whether a brief science-based online diversity training can change attitudes and behaviors toward women in the workplace. Although diversity training is commonplace in organizations, the relative scarcity of field experiments testing its effectiveness leaves ambiguity about whether diversity training improves attitudes and behaviors toward women and racial minorities. The results of the experiment with an international organization is whether a short online diversity training can affect attitudes and workplace behaviors. The preregistered field experiment included an active placebo control and measured participants’ attitudes and real workplace decisions up to 20 weeks post-intervention.
Among groups whose average untreated attitudes—whereas still supportive of women—were relatively less supportive of women than other groups, the diversity training successfully produced attitude change but not behavior change. On the other hand, the diversity training successfully generated some behavior change among groups whose average untreated attitudes were already strongly supportive of women before training.
The results suggest that the one-off diversity trainings that are commonplace in organizations are unlikely to be stand-alone solutions for promoting equality in the workplace, particularly given their limited efficacy among those groups whose behaviors policymakers are most eager to influence.
Diversity training in an academic environment
Devine, P. G., Forscher, P. S., Austin, A. J., & Cox, W. T. (2012). Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention. Journal of experimental social psychology, 48(6), 1267-1278.
Experiment with 91 non-Black introductory psychology students at a U.S. university, who completed a 12-week longitudinal study. The idea of the study was to developed a multi-faceted prejudice habit-breaking intervention to produce long-term reductions in implicit race bias. The intervention is based on the premise that implicit bias is like a habit that can be reduced through a combination of awareness of implicit bias, concern about the effects of that bias, and the application of strategies to reduce bias. In the 12-week longitudinal study, people who received the intervention showed dramatic reductions in implicit race bias. People who were concerned about discrimination or who reported using the strategies showed the greatest reductions. The intervention also led to increases in concern about discrimination and personal awareness of bias throughout the study. People in the control group showed none of the above effects.
Carnes, M., Devine, P. G., Manwell, L. B., Byars-Winston, A., Fine, E., Ford, C. E., Forscher,P., Isaac, C., Kaatz, A., Magua, W. , Palta, M. & Sheridan,J. (2015). Effect of an intervention to break the gender bias habit for faculty at one institution: a cluster randomized, controlled trial. Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 90(2), 221.
Pair-matched, single-blind, cluster-randomized, controlled study of a gender bias habit-changing intervention at a large public U.S. university with 92 participating departments in its 6 STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and Medicine) focused schools.
Experimental departments were offered a gender bias habit-changing intervention as a 2.5 hour workshop. Surveys measured gender bias awareness; motivation, self-efficacy, and outcome expectations to reduce bias; and gender equity action. A timed word categorization task measured implicit gender/leadership bias. Faculty completed a work-life survey before and after all experimental departments received the intervention. Control departments were offered workshops after data were collected.
Linear mixed-effects models showed significantly greater changes post-intervention for faculty in experimental vs. control departments on several outcome measures, including self-efficacy to engage in gender equity promoting behaviors. When ≥ 25% of a department’s faculty attended the workshop, significant increases in self-reported action to promote gender equity occurred at 3 months. Post-intervention, faculty in experimental departments expressed greater perceptions of fit, valuing of their research, and comfort in raising personal and professional conflicts.
The authors conclude that an intervention that facilitates intentional behavioral change can help faculty break the gender bias habit and change department climate in ways that should support the career advancement of women in academic medicine, science, and engineering.
Devine, P. G., Forscher, P. S., Cox, W. T., Kaatz, A., Sheridan, J., & Carnes, M. (2017). A gender bias habit-breaking intervention led to increased hiring of female faculty in STEMM departments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 73, 211-215.
Carnes et al., 2015 used a cluster-randomized trial involving showing that a gender bias habit-breaking intervention led to increases in gender bias awareness and self-efficacy to promote gender equity in academic science departments and perceptions of a more positive departmental climate. These results are exclusively self-report. To be impactful, the intervention must also produce changes in key behavioral outcomes related to reducing gender bias and STEMM. Therefore, the authors now present a study that compares the hiring rates of new female faculty pre- and postmanipulation. Whereas the proportion of women hired by control departments remained stable over time, the proportion of women hired by intervention departments increased by an estimated 18 percentage points. Though the preregistered analysis did not achieve conventional levels of statistical significance (p < 0.07), the study has a hard upper limit on statistical power, as the cluster-randomized trial has a maximum sample size of 92 departmental clusters. Nevertheless, the findings have undeniable practical significance for the advancement of women in science.
Smith, J. L., Handley, I. M., Zale, A. V., Rushing, S., & Potvin, M. A. (2015). Now hiring! Empirically testing a three-step intervention to increase faculty gender diversity in STEM. BioScience, 65(11), 1084-1087.
The paper reports about a randomized and controlled three-step faculty search intervention (23 STEM faculty searches; intervention n = 14 searches; no-intervention n = 9) aimed at increasing the number of women faculty at one US university where increasing diversity had historically proved elusive. Results show that the numbers of women candidates considered for and offered tenure-track positions were significantly higher in the intervention groups compared with those in controls. Searches in the intervention were 6.3 times more likely to make an offer to a woman candidate, and women who were made an offer were 5.8 times more likely to accept the offer from an intervention search. Although the focus was on increasing women faculty within STEM, the intervention can be adapted to other scientific and academic communities to advance diversity along any dimension.
Moss-Racusin, C. A., van der Toorn, J., Dovidio, J. F., Brescoll, V. L., Graham, M. J., & Handelsman, J. (2016). A “scientific diversity” intervention to reduce gender bias in a sample of life scientists. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 15(3), ar29.
Interventions targeting STEM instructors’ gender biases (n=129) at a U.S. summer Institute. A workshop called “Scientific Diversity” designed to reduce biases and was administered to a sample of life science instructors at several sessions of the National Academies Summer Institute for Undergraduate Education held in the U.S.. Evidence emerged indicating the efficacy of the “Scientific Diversity” workshop, such that participants were more aware of gender bias, expressed less gender bias, and were more willing to engage in actions to reduce gender bias two weeks after participating in the intervention compared with two weeks before the intervention.
Moss-Racusin, C. A., Pietri, E. S., Hennes, E. P., Dovidio, J. F., Brescoll, V. L., Roussos, G., & Handelsman, J. (2018). Reducing STEM gender bias with VIDS (video interventions for diversity in STEM). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 24(2), 236.
U.S. study with two experiments, one with adults from the general public (n=450), the other with STEM professionals (n=140) to assess whether different Video Interventions for Diversity in STEM (VIDS) reduce gender bias.
An interdisciplinary group of researchers and filmmakers partnered to create VIDS (Video Interventions for Diversity in STEM), which are short videos that expose participants to empirical findings from published gender bias research in one of three conditions. One condition illustrated findings using narratives (compelling stories), and the second condition presented the same results using expert interviews (straightforward facts). A hybrid condition included both narrative and expert interview videos. Results of two experiments revealed that relative to controls, VIDS successfully reduced gender bias and increased awareness of gender bias, positive attitudes towards women in STEM, anger, empathy, and intentions to engage in behaviors that promote gender parity in STEM. The narratives were particularly impactful for emotions, while the expert interviews most strongly impacted awareness and attitudes. The hybrid condition reflected the strengths of both the narratives and expert interviews (though effects were sometimes slightly weaker than the other conditions). VIDS produced substantial immediate effects among both men and women in the general population and STEM faculty, and effects largely persisted at follow-up.
Hennes, E. P., Pietri, E. S., Moss-Racusin, C. A., Mason, K. A., Dovidio, J. F., Brescoll, V. L., Bailey, A.H. & Handelsman, J. (2018). Increasing the perceived malleability of gender bias using a modified Video Intervention for Diversity in STEM (VIDS). Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 21(5), 788-809.
This U.S. experiment extends the findings of Moss-Racusin et al. (2018) with with working adults from the general public (N = 343) and science faculty (N = 149), testing if interventions that emphasize the pervasiveness of bias may inadvertently damage efficacy to confront sexism by creating the perception that bias is immutable. Also, scholars are increasingly responding to calls for interventions to address persistent gender disparities in the sciences. It is still unclear if these interventions may inadvertently create the perception that bias is unchangeable. The study examines this possibility in the context of a successful intervention (Moss-Racusin et al. 2018). The study modified the video intervention by developing a module that offers tools for addressing bias and promotes the mindset that bias is malleable. While the video intervention alone was sufficient to increase awareness of bias, reduce sexism, and improve bias identification, the new module buffered against perceptions that bias is immutable and restored self-efficacy to address bias.
Carnes, M., Devine, P.G., Manwell, L.B., Byars-Winston, A., Fine, E., Ford, C.E., Forscher, P., Isaac, C., Kaatz, A., Magua, W. & Palta, M. (2015). Effect of an intervention to break the gender bias habit for faculty at one institution: a cluster randomized, controlled trial. Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 90(2), 221. The authors of this study implemented a pair-matched, single-blind, cluster-randomized, controlled study of a gender bias habit-changing intervention at a large public university. Participants were faculty in 92 departments or divisions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the experiment took place between September 2010 and March 2012. The experimental departments were offered a gender bias habit-changing intervention as a 2.5 hour workshop. Surveys measured gender bias awareness; motivation, self-efficacy, and outcome expectations to reduce bias; and gender equity action. A timed word categorization task measured implicit gender/leadership bias. Faculty completed a worklife survey before and after all experimental departments received the intervention. Control departments were offered workshops after data were collected. Linear mixed-effects models showed significantly greater changes post-intervention for faculty in experimental vs. control departments on several outcome measures, including self-efficacy to engage in gender equity promoting behaviors (P = .013). When ≥ 25% of a department’s faculty attended the workshop (26 of 46 departments), significant increases in self-reported action to promote gender equity occurred at 3 months (P = .007). Post-intervention, faculty in experimental departments expressed greater perceptions of fit (P = .024), valuing of their research (P = .019), and comfort in raising personal and professional conflicts (P = .025).
Girod, S., Fassiotto, M., Grewal, D., Ku, M. C., Sriram, N., Nosek, B. A., & Valantine, H. (2016). Reducing implicit gender leadership bias in academic medicine with an educational intervention. Academic Medicine, 91(8), 1143-1150.
This US study did a standardized, 20-minute educational intervention to educate faculty (n=281) in medicine about implicit biases and strategies for overcoming them. Afterwards the effect of this intervention is assessed. The study assessed faculty members’ perceptions of bias as well as their explicit and implicit attitudes toward gender and leadership. Results indicated that the intervention significantly changed all faculty members’ perceptions of bias (P < .05 across all eight measures). Although, as expected, explicit biases did not change following the intervention, the intervention did have a small but significant positive effect on the implicit biases surrounding women and leadership of all participants regardless of age or gender (P = .008). These results suggest that providing education on bias and strategies for reducing it can serve as an important step toward reducing gender bias in academic medicine and, ultimately, promoting institutional change, specifically the promoting of women to higher ranks.