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Newsletter Week 35

October 9, 2019

This week How your open office plan may be turning women off. Also support for diversity policies varies not only according to demographic, but also by how the policy is communicated. Speaking of which, the first DEI report from the Stanford Business School is a model for how to measure diversity and create a blueprint for change. You should read it. Finally, diversity in ads is good for share prices...and for brand reputation. But the diversity has to be meaningful.

This Week in D&I In Practice

How Your Open Office Plan May Be Turning Women Off (D&I In Practice Original)

New research suggests that women experience open office plans differently than men, and not in a positive way. We know that environmental cues, like geeky imagery, can discourage women’s interest in STEM. And that positive cues, like gender-inclusive bathrooms, increase perceptions of fairness. But how can we make the ubiquitous open office plan more friendly to women?

This Week in News and Research

1.  Who Supports Diversity Policies? It Depends on the Policy. (Harvard Business Review)

A U.S. study on attitudes towards diversity policies shows that different demographic groups support diversity policies at different rates, depending on the policy. The two policies with the most support across the board? Voluntary training and the creation of a diversity office.

The study also shows that how policies are framed matters. From the article:

Across race and gender, we found that people are more likely to support workplace policies when they are framed as a means to address discrimination, as opposed to when they are framed as a means to increase diversity or when the policy has no clear mission.

This reinforces the importance of good communication—and knowing your audience—in any D&I initiative. While it is not specifically about D&I, I like this Wharton article about how communication needs to be baked into strategic initiatives from the beginning.

2. Annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report (Stanford University Graduate School of Business website)

Business culture will not change until business school culture changes. The recent boom in D&I education in MBA classrooms is a positive sign, but business schools themselves face structural issues which will take a long time to address.

The Stanford GSB’s first DEI report does a great job of acknowledging where the school needs to improve and laying out what they call “strategic pilots” to see what is most effective in creating change. It’s a model for anyone trying to create—or communicate—a D&I change program.

3. 17,000 Data Points from 50 Top Brands Prove That Diversity in Ads is Good for Their Bottom Lines (Fast Company)

Most interesting about this research: the authors took the time to define diversity in a meaningful way. For example, it wasn’t enough to simply have a person of color, or a woman, in an ad. From the article:

[The diversity score depended on] ...showcasing diversity in primary roles (speaking roles versus background), illustrating diverse characters in positions of power (buying a burger versus selling the burger), and contrasting stereotypical roles (woman cooking versus woman pursuing a career).

Brands that had higher diversity in their advertising, according to this definition, were more likely to see their stock increase, and more likely to increase their Brand Index score.

Interestingly, the biggest diversity shortfalls they identified were around representations of LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities, each of which appeared less than 1% of the time.

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