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(LifeSiteNews) — So-called “diversity, equity, & inclusion” (DEI) training in academia and the corporate world is not only ineffective but harmful to its own theoretical goal of more tolerant environments, according to a Harvard scholar who was at the forefront of the DEI movement.

On September 17, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Harvard social scientists Mahzarin Banaji and Frank Dobbin, which, while continuing to vouch for the stated purpose of DEI programs, acknowledges there is “no question that the way organizations deal with it is more likely to hurt than help.”

“[A]fter decades of diversity training, many university faculties, state agencies and corporations have made little progress on diversifying the workforce,” they wrote. The admission is significant due to Banaji’s long-standing promotion of DEI concepts; in 1998, she co-founded Harvard’s Project Implicit research collaborative, whose work “forms the basis of our scientific knowledge about bias and disparities.”

The piece cites research by Dobbin and colleague Alexandra Kalev as showing the “typical DEI training doesn’t educate people about bias and may even do harm.” In a 2021 Economist article, Dobbin and Kalev write that biases cannot be uprooted by simple workplace training because they are “inscribed over a lifetime, and hundreds of studies of anti-bias training show that even the best programmes have short-lived effects on stereotypes and no discernible effect on discriminatory behaviour,” and can actually make trainees more conscious of stereotypes that would not otherwise occur to them.

Rather than abandoning the DEI project in favor of a return to more color-blind principles espoused by leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., however, the authors suggest “disrupt[ing] biased systems” by “redesign[ing] them to deliberately include people of colour,” by “[c]hanging recruitment, mentoring, job-assignment, project-management, layoff and work-life systems to maximise inclusion.” 

Such changes include turning to nonwhite schools for new recruits, making career advancement less contingent on putting in long hours, not deciding layoffs on the basis of how long a worker has been with a company, and establishing “diversity councils” or diversity task forces specifically dedicated to reviewing company policies through an identity lens.

Canadian clinical psychologist and social commentator Jordan B. Peterson took to social media to comment on Banaji’s “stunning” admission given her history with the subject while noting that she is still far from abandoning her ideology’s premise. “But it’s a start,” he said.

Far from being confined to sensitivity and representation for once-wronged groups, DEI is controversial primarily because it is also a pervasive shorthand across the corporate and academic worlds for a litany of identity-based grievances and social causes, commonly used to get businesses involved in an array of left-wing causes and ensure ideological conformity in hiring practices. Closely related is the Environmental, Social, & Governance (ESG) scoring system to incentivize companies to embrace “diversity” and other left-wing values.

Consumer boycotts against these trends have contributed to losses for companies like Disney, Target, and Anheuser-Busch while policymakers adopt new measures to curb corporations’ incentives to “go woke.”

Nineteen states – Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming – have formed a coalition to collectively agree to resist corporate wokeness in a variety of ways, such as banning ESG in state pension-fund investment decisions, banning the use of “social credit scores” in banking and lending practices, and banning ideological discrimination against customers by financial institutions.