Why Diversity Programs Fail

by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev

BUSINESSES STARTED CARING A LOT more about diversity after a series of high-profile lawsuits rocked the financial industry. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Morgan Stanley shelled out $54 million—and Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch more than $100 million each—to settle sex discrimination claims. In 2007, Morgan was back at the table, facing a new class action, which cost the company $46 million. In 2013, Bank of America Merrill Lynch settled a race discrimination suit for $160 million. Cases like these brought Merrill’s total 15-year payout to nearly half a billion dollars.

It’s no wonder that Wall Street firms now require new hires to sign arbitration contracts agreeing not to ...

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