Joan Williams Publishes Data-Based Workplace DEI Guide

Drawing on four decades of research, Distinguished Professor Joan Williams published her twelfth book in November 2021, Bias Interrupted: Creating Inclusion for Real and for Good (Harvard Business Review Press), a comprehensive guide for company executives.

The book outlines evidence-based techniques developed in Williams’ 40 years of studying gender bias and more than a decade studying racial bias. Written for CEOs and CFOs searching for lasting progress on diversity and inclusion at their companies, the book also appeals to individuals who want to become better allies to women and people of color in the workplace.

Williams says companies have been spending $8 billion a year on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) only to see few results.

“Many people think that improving inclusion just involves a sincere conversation about the importance of inclusion,” she says. “Sadly, that’s not true. I’m all for conversations, but they are not an effective organizational change model.”

Director of UC Hastings Law’s Center for WorkLife Law, Williams points to seven racial and gender bias studies from the last two decades showing that businesses’ organizational systems are to blame. Systems for hiring, promotions, and performance evaluations perpetuate inequality.

For example, 80% to 90% of white men say they have access to career-enhancing opportunities, while marginalized groups report sharply lower rates.

“Changing that kind of metric requires direct involvement from the CEO,” Williams says. “When people work within their comfort zones, they tend to transmit racial and gender privilege with rigor and elegance.”

Williams’ book maps concrete strategies for rooting out discriminatory systems, such as:

  • Keep track of who is getting high-profile opportunities
  • Reward lower-profile contributions
  • Run inclusive meetings

Companies should treat DEI initiatives the same as any other business goal, using data to track and measure their progress, she argues in a recent Forbes article.

Before Bias Interrupted, Williams wrote 11 other books, including What Works for Women at Work: A Workbook, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America and Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter.