Do colleges need mandatory gender diversity training?

by L&D19 Jul 2017
As the number of transgender students on college campuses has increased over time, so have incidents of bullying and intimidation.

This is why one education union in the UK – ATL Wales – is calling for mandatory training for college staff.

ATL Wales’ president, Lesley Tipping, says employees at colleges are confused over pronouns and that could even lead to legal issues.

“We haven't got compulsory training and at the moment it is down to the pro-activeness of the college,” she told BBC.

“Lecturers could be put in quite an embarrassing position if they address someone as a he who is a she or neither a he or a she.”

Tipping added that students who identify as trans or non-binary had “entitlements” and staff needed to understand them:

“We are keen for lecturer training to understand legalities and ensure they're not embarrassed in any way. If we don't ensure they're trained we could end up with legal issues,” she said.

However, some studies say organisations shouldn’t be so quick to use diversity training to shed employees’ biases.

A report by Harvard Business Review has found that diversity training programs can actually have the opposite effect of what they intend.

And another study, by the University of Buffalo’s (UB) School of Management, found that diversity training programs are not effective at changing attitudes and behaviours towards diverse groups in the workplace.

Despite this, nearly half of midsize companies use it, as do nearly all the Fortune 500.
However, a study by Kate Bezrukova, PhD, associate professor of organisation and human resources in the UB School of Management, claimed the opposite.

According to her research, diversity training is most effective when it is mandatory, delivered over an extended period of time, integrated with other initiatives and designed to increase both awareness and skills.

“When organisations demonstrate a commitment to diversity, employees are more motivated to learn about and understand these societal issues and apply that in their daily interactions,” Bezrukova said.

Kate Bezrukova, PhD, associate professor of organisation and human resources in the UB School of Management, said diversity training can be effective so long as it is “conducted thoughtfully.”

“In today’s political climate, diversity training has the potential to make a huge positive impact in addressing biases and prejudice within organisations,” she said.

“At best, diversity training can engage and retain women and people of colour in the workplace – but at worst, it can backfire and reinforce stereotypes.”


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