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Evan Apfelbaum, helping firms craft diversity plans, makes best professors list


MIT Sloan Assistant Professor Evan Apfelbaum — whose recent work helps managers tailor diversity programs to their workforce —  was named this week to the Poets & Quants 40 Under 40 list of business school professors.

Apfelbaum, 36, joined MIT Sloan in 2011. His research challenges and reassesses commonly-held assumptions about race in the workplace and society. His recent work found that there are two ways to approach corporate diversity, the “value in difference” approach and the “value in equality” approach, and that each one appeals to different groups. For example, a diversity statement that makes a black employee feel valued and included can have the opposite effect on a female employee.

“This theory reconciles mixed results in past research, substantively extends existing work on diversity, and, practically, gives leaders a concrete prescriptive framework for promoting inclusion by tailoring how they talk about diversity to the needs of their employees,” Apfelbaum told Poets & Quants.

That matters, Apfelbaum told Poets & Quants, because while both approaches can be effective, each can be also be counterproductive.

“No approach to talking about differences and diversity will work uniformly well across groups and contexts,” Apfelbaum wrote last year in Harvard Business Review. “Before organizations decide to focus on the value in difference or equality, they should first consider who they are targeting.” 

In the classroom, Apfelbaum teaches Organizational Processes and Applied Seminar in Behavioral Research.

While MIT Sloan professors make frequent appearances on the Poets & Quants list, this year’s 40 honorees are especially noteworthy because the site received four times as many nominations last year.

Read Poets & Quants' full profile of Apfelbaum.

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