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Diversity training needs to be done right or it can harm

By contributing author Jane DiRenzo Pigott, R3 Group LLC

A best practice in the diversity and inclusion world is diversity training. Many law departments conduct diversity training as part of their ongoing diversity efforts. Even so, for a number of reasons diversity training may be disruptive and detract from efforts to improve the inclusiveness of a law department.

First, many law departments just aren’t ready for diversity training. The diversity effort hasn’t yet been expanded to include everyone within the department. Instead, there is a diversity committee normally composed of people who are diverse by gender, ethnicity or race, sexual orientation and disability. That committee is charged with diversity and few others in the department, especially not the able-bodied white straight men, understand the committee’s goals and plans. There needs to be more effective communication at this stage to produce any benefit out of diversity training.

A second reason why diversity training is not only ineffective, but harmful, is that general counsel believe that one session will “inoculate” everyone and create sustained change. That just isn’t going to happen. The only way diversity training can be effective is when it is part of an integrated plan to effectively discuss differences and enhance the department’s ability to value and use those differences.

A final reason why diversity training can be a waste of time and money is that leaders are not strongly and consistently supporting the diversity goals. The first people trained should be the leaders and the leaders need to set the tone with regard to participation in and utilization of the training.

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