Diversity training is a course of instruction aimed at increasing the participants' cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills in order to benefit an organization by protecting against civil rights violations, by increasing the inclusion of different identity groups, and by promoting better teamwork. 
Leading diverse teams
According to Michael Bird, it is likely that many project managers may feel that they are treading new and unfamiliar territory as they attempt to lead project teams made up of individuals from different cultures, heterogeneous mixes, and differing demographics. This feeling of uneasiness may occur because of a lack of understanding of the techniques required to manage diverse teams. When these requisite techniques are lacking, moreover, it is likely that the motivation, satisfaction and productivity levels of the team members will suffer. Bird recommends that project managers not only refine and improvement management techniques but also complete post project evaluations to measure the overall results of managing the diverse teams.
Based on Bird’s research, the following positive approaches can be adopted by project managers faced with the challenge of leading such heterogeneous teams:
- Recognize that diversity will bring a greater skills base when managed properly
- Improve the overall climate in diverse project teams in order to improve satisfaction, reduce conflicts, and improve team member retention
- Encourage creativity, flexibility, and innovation among the team members which will allow the injection of new ideas and challenge the normal organizational mindsets
Bird points in his article to the many benefits that managing diversity will bring to a project team: enhanced opportunities, better performance, greater strategic awareness, and greater opportunities for innovation and responsiveness.
Diversity training has been a controversial issue, raising questions about moral considerations and counter-productivity.
Observers characterize diversity training in very different ways. Its proponents consider it morally right, because it respects diversity, recognizing the value and contributions of every human being. They also view it as economically sound, because it enables organizations to draw on multiplicities of talents and strengths.
According to Hans Bader, its opponents consider it an oppressive, ideology reeducation tactic that actually reduces the ability of organizations to attain their goals. It has been suggested that diversity training reinforces differences between individuals instead of fostering their commonalities, thus helping to further racialize the workplace, creating situations where people "tiptoe" around issues such as how to relate to people of different cultures as opposed to people learning to communicate with and truly understand each other. It may also, according to law professor Gail Heriot, amount to a "rather blatant form of racial and sexual harassment".
These opinions have been confirmed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals which, in Fitzgerald v. Mountain States Tel & Tel. Co. (1995), noted that "diversity training sessions generate conflict and emotion" and that "diversity training is perhaps a tyranny of virtue."
In a paper published in the American Sociological Review, the authors concluded that efforts to mitigate managerial bias ultimately fail to achieve the organization's aim of increasing diversity in the management and leadership ranks. In contrast, programs which established specific responsibility for diversity, such as equal opportunity staff positions or diversity task forces, have proven most effective in general. However, the results also indicate that White females benefit significantly more from Diversity Training. The benefits for African American females and males were appreciably lower than European American females. Networking and mentoring, which were considered bias mitigating approaches, served African American females the most. African American males were the least likely to benefit from any of the methods.
The news media and bloggers have used the study results to question the merits of financing the sizable diversity training industry. In January 2008, the Washington Post used quotes from “longtime diversity trainer” Dr. Billy E. Vaughn (Diversity Training University International) and others to make the point that Kalev’s research  suggests other strategies may be more effective than diversity training for mobilizing people of color and women into management roles.
According to supporters of diversity training, the goal is to reach people's sense of empathy and morality. It seeks to address a sense of apathy that many people have because they do not think the problem affects them or they do not believe that they act in a racist manner. Elliott says racism is not inherent: "You are not born a racist. You have to carefully be taught to be one." While Elliott created the exercise as a response to racial discrimination, her approach is equally touted to point out sexism, ageism, and homophobia as well. However, it is the manner in which these training sessions are conducted and Elliott's role as a trainer that have drawn criticism.
The corporate version of "blue-eyed/brown-eyed" is still based on demeaning a chosen group of people and then letting the temporarily favored group taunt them, much the way the brown-eyed children of the original exercise did. As in the original exercise, Elliott does not explicitly tell participants to mock others but uses choice of language and tone, removal of basic rights (such as being allowed to speak without permission), and a constant changing of the rules to discomfort the blue-eyed participants. At the same time, she uses positive language, praise, and encouragement to the brown-eyed people. One way she does this is with the use of an alternative IQ test called the "Dove Counterbalance Intelligence Test" which asks questions about the black experience of the 1950s and 1960s, in an attempt to mimic the experience that blacks may have with conventional IQ or standardized tests.
Elliott has also been accused of not recognizing the social and political changes that have occurred since the era in which she originally developed the exercise. Alan Charles Kors—a professor of history at University of Pennsylvania—noted, in his defense of students accused of shouting racial slurs in the water buffalo incident of 1993, that Elliott's exercise teaches "blood-guilt and self-contempt to whites," adding that "in her view, nothing has changed in America since the collapse of Reconstruction."
However, Elliott argues that such an approach is still necessary. She is quoted as saying "I've reached a point now where I will no longer tolerate the intolerable. I'm a ball of barbed-wire and I know it." "After 30 years of dealing with this subject of racism, I am no longer a sweet, gentle person. I want it stopped." She has also expressed frustration at the idea that she still needs to do this exercise: "It shouldn't be necessary in 2008", she says, to "…say things that are difficult for people to hear. I'm not kind about it. But neither are the racists."
- Vaughn, B. "The history of diversity training and its pioneers", Strategic Diversity & Inclusion Management, pp. 11-16, Spring 2007. DTUI.com Publications Division: San Francisco.
- Michael Bird: Improving Project Productivity with Diverse Membership 2007. Accessed April 15, 2009.
- Orlando Richard, "Diversity at the Top May Boost the Bottom Line," September, 2010.
- Hans Bader: Diversity Training Backfires OpenMarket.org. December 26, 2007. Accessed April 15, 2009.
- Gail Heriot: White Guys Have No Rights. And They’d Better Shut Up If Think They Have (Part 1) December 23, 2007. Accessed April 15, 2009.
- Fitzgerald v. Mountain States Tel & Tel. Co.
- Alexandra Kalev, Frank Dobbin and Erin Kelley (2006), "Best Practices or Best Guesses? Assessing the Efficacy of Corporate Affirmative Action and Diversity Policies", American Sociological Review 71: 589–617
- Shankar Vedantam: Most Diversity Training Ineffective, Study Finds The Washington Post, p. A03, January 20, 2008
- PBS, "Class Divided - FRONTLINE". Last modified January 2003. Accessed April 17, 2014.
- McPhee, Nicole (2001-08-09). "Doing diversity right: Renowned Iowa schoolteacher and discrimination educator get to the heart of the matter". Gauntlet News. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- Mirza, Munira (2005-12-12). "Ticking all the boxes". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- Thought Reform 101; The Orwellian implications of today's college orientation by Alan Charles Kors, Reason; March 2000
- Shah, Allie (1998-03-06). "Race relations expert urges her audience to 'unlearn racism'; Elliott takes a confrontational tack". The Star Tribune. Retrieved 2013-12-12.
- Cooper, Desiree (2008-01-08). "She's living, teaching the King dream". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2013-12-12.