Despite the disjointed creation of the fields of diversity training and diversity education, taking the best of each would advance both goals.

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Reviewed by Oscar Mairena


Over the last two decades, the fields of diversity training and diversity education have become critical components of organizations and academic settings. Just as organizations develop antiracism policies and employee training, management programs have also expanded their diversity management educational offerings. Diversity training refers to the specialized field devoted to ad hoc training in organizations and companies that address tailored diversity needs and practices. Diversity education refers to the formalized educational field, often in business and management programs, that focuses on the broader need for diversity practices. 

In some cases, the academic and popular literature treats the concepts of diversity training and education as interchangeable. This study seeks to correct that conflation by highlighting how these two fields have developed independently of each other and identifying the nuances between the two distinct fields. The authors find that the content of diversity management courses does not seem to match practical and organizational needs, and diversity training often lacks the standardization and accountability embedded in diversity education. By combining the strengths of both fields, diversity training and education overall can be improved and may steer future research. 

The authors include Dr. Eden B. King, Lynette S. Autrey, Professor of Psychology at Rice University, Dr. Lisa M.V. Gulick, human capital and leadership consultant with Deloitte-Australia, and Dr. Derek R. Avery, C. T. Bauer Chair of Inclusive Leadership in the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston.

Methods and Findings

The authors looked to the existing literature to assess diversity training and education’s content, delivery modes, and benefits. They also reviewed core differences between education and training fields and applied those findings to the subject matter of diversity. 

Benefits of diversity training include:

Emphasis on organizational needs:  Trainings tend to be more informed by prerequisite assessments of the organization’s and individual employees’ needs and current level of understanding on a given topic.

Contextual specificity: Diversity training can provide an opportunity for various levels of management and staff to design and demonstrate commitment to diversity best practices tailored to the organization. 

Competency-building: Diversity trainings move participants beyond awareness alone toward the activities and skills necessary for behavioral change.

Benefits of diversity education include:

Active learning and formal settings – Courses in diversity education benefit from having constant communication and feedback between expert instructors and pupils, including grades and assessments, to maintain engagement. 

Higher participant commitment – The opt-in nature of many elective diversity courses means that the underlying commitment of those enrolled may be higher than in mandated training. 

Knowledge-building – Diversity education tends to center reflection on and awareness of the cognitive functions and biases that underlie our beliefs, which is more likely to change attitudes than behavior.


The authors conclude that by distinguishing between the fields of diversity training and education, the distinct benefits of each can inform the other. Diversity education, for example, would benefit from increasing needs analysis, contextual awareness, and practical focus. Diversity training, on the other hand, could better incorporate knowledge building and reflection and increase emphasis on measuring performance and creating accountability for sustained behavior change. 

As more organizations incorporate diversity training in line with their antiracist statements and more diversity classes are taught, the bridge between these divides becomes increasingly important. Diversity training or education alone is not enough to sustain antiracist efforts; practitioners in both fields can learn from one another to better implement equity, diversity, and inclusion practices. Finding, elevating, and integrating best practices from both fields can potentially improve desired outcomes, direct research, and enhance organizational work around their diversity efforts.


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