Diversity in the Workplace Can Be a Reality, Says New Study

New research from Columbia Business School uncovers barriers and delivers solutions for increasing diversity

Feb 24, 2016, 12:00 ET from Columbia Business School

NEW YORK, Feb. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The current outcry for more diversity in the entertainment industry has fueled interest in how to increase diversity in the workplace.  Amidst the ongoing backlash facing this year's Oscar awards for a lack of diversity in nominees and voting members, ABC television recently announced that it has promoted the first African-American to oversee a major broadcast network in the United States.  Now, new research from Columbia Business School examines methods that hinder diversity in the workplace, and recommends steps for how to most effectively strengthen diversity efforts.

"The benefits of diversity are really about the different experiences that individuals bring to a problem," said Katherine Phillips, co-author of the research and senior vice dean and professor of leadership and ethics at Columbia Business School. "Demographically diverse groups make better decisions and produce more innovations, because they bring in different perspectives."

Their analysis reveals that working in a diverse group changes how people think and leads to more effective, higher quality decisions at the group level and to economic growth at the societal level. Diversity produces these outcomes because it tends to promote creativity and to encourage complex thinking.

"The benefits depend not just on encountering unfamiliar situations, but on wanting to learn about and integrate them," said Adam Galinsky, lead author of the paper and professor of management at Columbia Business School. "For example, people who have lived in foreign countries and encountered more diversity become more creative and complex in their thinking, but only if they are engaged in learning about others."

There are often many psychological resistances to increasing diversity efforts.  According to their analysis, diverse groups often suffer from greater conflict and disengagement, which can impair group functioning and performance.

The authors recommend a number of solutions for how to increase diversity in the workplace. They suggest:

  • Create recruitment and employment policies that ensure unbiased evaluation criteria, like committing to criteria before reviewing candidates.
  • Report hiring and promotion rates to increase transparency and accountability.
  • Establish inclusive mentorship programs that support both minority and majority groups.
  • Create opportunities to learn about other perspectives and cultures.

Even though these policy changes can potentially impact millions of Americans, policies will only be effective to the degree that they offer incentives and resources to increase and manage diversity.

For the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, altering its committee of voting members is the first step to help create more diversity within its ranks. But this won't guarantee more diverse nominees. Real change requires more opportunities for under-represented groups at every level of filmmaking.

To learn more about the cutting-edge research being conducted at Columbia Business School, please visit www.gsb.columbia.edu.

About Columbia Business School

Columbia Business School is the only world–class, Ivy League business school that delivers a learning experience where academic excellence meets with real–time exposure to the pulse of global business. Led by Dean Glenn Hubbard, the School's transformative curriculum bridges academic theory with unparalleled exposure to real–world business practice, equipping students with an entrepreneurial mindset that allows them to recognize, capture, and create opportunity in any business environment. The thought leadership of the School's faculty and staff, combined with the accomplishments of its distinguished alumni and position in the center of global business, means that the School's efforts have an immediate, measurable impact on the forces shaping business every day. To learn more about Columbia Business School's position at the very center of business, please visit www.gsb.columbia.edu.

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SOURCE Columbia Business School