Data for diversity programs

2017/03/14

I often hear an exchange of this format:

Explanator: Did you ever know ?

Explanatee: No, I haven’t. That’s so shocking!

Explanator: Well, you know it’s true because .

Explanatee: Of course, yes! .

Just as often, the explanatee objects to the statistical fact because thon has had an experience that apparently contradicts the statistic. For example, I might tell you that a single act of unprotected (but otherwise uncomplicated) penile-vaginal sex between an HIV-infected male and uninfected female carries a transmission risk of only one in a thousand (i.e., a monogamous, otherwise healthy male-female couple would need to have unprotected sex around 700 times before transmission hits a 50/50 chance). If you are (or know someone) who became infected after fewer than 700 sex acts, you might object to the statistic.

The thing that makes me crazy is that the fact is rhetorically “proven” (or disproven) by an appeal to an anecdote. In rhetoric, a statistic and an anecdote carry equal weight. Well, the anecdote will carry more weight if it is more interesting (or shocking) than the statistic.

I say all of this as a preamble to a link to this article, which is one of the few documents that has helped me guide my ideas about what kinds of diversity programs are useful (or not). Interestingly, mandatory training, grievance systems, and hiring tests tend to have a _negative _impact on an organization’s diversity. The things that help are mostly about empowering people and getting people invested in diversity: voluntary training, diversity task forces, self-managed teams, etc.

I wish there were more data in this area, because I’m tired of hearing anecdotes.