One big challenge to any corporate diversity effort is the widely held assumption that people’s attitudes don’t really change.

“Doing diversity,” many believe, amounts to nothing more than a feel-good exercise, because people remain just as prejudiced – or just as fair – afterward as they were before.

Fortunately, such beliefs are demonstrably wrong. Here’s a quick exercise from diversity trainers Jonamay Lambert and Selma Myers that will both prove to people that they can change and help them gain a vision of what that change could look like:

Past v. Present
Give your trainees pen and paper. Ask them to reflect and write about this question: “What are my present beliefs, attitudes and values about people of other races/ethnic groups?”

Give them 5-10 minutes to work, then move to the next question: “What were my past beliefs, attitudes and values about such people 10 years ago?”

After another 5-10 minutes, break the audience into small groups. (If you have fewer than 6-7 trainees altogether, this step may not be necessary.)

Have people discuss the similarities and changes in their attitudes over time. If they’re being frank, they may uncover some startling differences – not always positive ones.

Looking forward
Last, have everyone discuss how they’d like their attitudes about other races/ethnic groups to change in the next 5-7 years. Reconvene and have the discussion groups report. The whole thing need take no longer than 45-50 minutes.

The trainer can use the reports to stress how attitudes toward diverse co-workers can shift over time, and how it’s key for the success of the organization to shape this change in positive ways.

photo credit: Capture Queen™

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