Diversity Programs at Work: Corporate Activities and Workforce Composition

Project Date:
Nov 2001
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Cultural Contact

America has long been known as the land of hope and opportunity, attracting wave after wave of immigrants in search of a better life. As a result, we possess one of the most diverse populations in the world. To ensure that employment opportunity would be enjoyed equally by racial and ethnic minorities and women, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy ordered federal contractors to take “affirmative action” to end discrimination in the workplace; three years later, The Civil Rights Act outlawed employment discrimination outright. Although these laws passed nearly 40 years ago revolutionized employment practices and polices, to date no one has studied the actual effects of these practices. For instance, does cultural awareness training lead to greater numbers of African-Americans in management? Do mentoring programs help Hispanics move into professional occupations? Frank Dobbin of Princeton University hopes to answer these questions in a two-year study analyzing establishment-level data on changes in the ethnic, racial, and gender composition of the U.S. workforce. He has obtained annual data on 200,000 business establishments from 1980-1999 from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and will survey 700 of them with regard to their equal opportunity and affirmative action programs. For the study, Dobbin has divided equal employment opportunity programs into six categories: symbolic programs (written diversity mission statement), procedural programs (adoption of grievance mechanisms), substantive programs (minority training), cultural awareness practices (diversity training), behavioral change practices (manager diversity scorecards), and the use of networks in identifying minority employees. Specifically, he will explore the effects of particular diversity programs on the employment of five racial and ethnic groups-- white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American-- by gender across nine occupations: managers, professionals, technicians, sales workers, office and clerical workers, craft workers, operatives, laborers, and service workers. By combining EEOC annual data with his survey data, he will be able to analyze the historical impact of diversity programs on actual workforce diversity. The research results will be published in a series of articles, which will serve as the basis of a book that explores the relative merits of different approaches to fighting discrimination and promoting diversity.


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