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Businesses Pursuing Inclusive Policies Can Still Be Reluctant to Assign Important Tasks to Diverse Hires, Research Finds

  • Harvard professor looks at a midsize consulting company’s assessment of its company culture after noticing a high turnover rate among diverse hires
  • Partners often fell back on assigning important clients and tasks to White male workers
  • Creating a developmental rather than an assessment culture

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Even when companies are committed to diversity and inclusion in its hiring, recent research suggests that they may inadvertently close off opportunities to these employees.

Robin Ely, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, looked at how a midsize consulting firm assessed its company culture after noticing a high turnover rate among its diverse workforce. They found that the firm’s White male partners often assigned important clients and tasks to White male employees, leaving women and minorities with lesser responsibilities.

  • This atmosphere led to women and minorities leaving for opportunities elsewhere, or taking longer to advance when staying with the same company
  • Ely companies may have an “assessment” culture, which assumes that talent is fixed rather than developed
  • She encourages companies to adopt a culture that offers coaching, support, and greater opportunities for working on important assignments
  • This model also offers advantages such as more honest feedback and a better ability to refine business strategy

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