The Origins and Effects of Corporate Diversity Programs

Frank Dobbin, Alexandra Kalev

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Corporations have implemented a wide range of equal opportunity and diversity programs since the 1960s. This chapter reviews studies of the origins of these programs, surveys that assess the popularity of different programs, and research on the effects of programs on the workforce. Human resources managers championed several waves of innovations: corporate equal opportunity policies and recruitment and training programs in the 1960s; bureaucratic hiring and promotion policies and grievance mechanisms in the 1970s; diversity training, networking, and mentoring programs in the 1980s; and work/family and sexual harassment programs in the 1990s and beyond. It was those managers who designed equal opportunity and diversity programs, not lawyers or judges or government bureaucrats, thus corporate take-up of the programs remains very uneven. Statistical analyses of time-series data on the effects of corporate diversity measures reveal several patterns. Initiatives designed to quash managerial bias, through diversity training, diversity performance evaluations, and bureaucratic rules, have been broadly ineffective. By contrast, innovations designed to engage managers in promoting workforce integration—mentoring programs, diversity taskforces, and full-time diversity staffers—have led to increases in diversity in the most difficult job to integrate, management. The research has clear implications for corporate and public policy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Handbook of Diversity and Work
Editors Quinetta Roberson
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)978-0199736355
StatePublished - 2013


  • Diversity Programs
  • Diversity Taskforces
  • Mentoring
  • Diversity Training
  • Workforce Diversity


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