Evaluation of a Sexual and Gender Minority Diversity and Inclusion Training at the CDC

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Ally training promotes awareness of topics related to sexual and gender minorities in the workplace and results in changes in participants’ knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions.

We’re excited to share a new publication that evaluates the Ally training at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This training is designed to promote awareness of topics related to sexual and gender minority (SGM) employees in the workplace. If your organization is assessing its progress toward a more diverse and inclusive culture through diversity trainings, you may find our evaluation helpful.

A diverse and inclusive workforce can improve organizational effectiveness and increase recruitment, employee retention, and innovation.  The American Public Health Association has noted that:

“noninclusive, heteronormative, and cisnormative workplaces can silence employee voices, which can lead to an atmosphere of fear and silence…[while] supportive and inclusive workplace environments, grounded in gender-inclusive work policies, not only give employees a voice but can increase their contributions, job satisfaction, and commitment.” (See Promoting Transgender and Gender Minority Health through Inclusive Policies and Practices)

Trainings designed to increase the competencies of public health professionals around SGM issues may also help to reduce barriers to providing quality services for SGM people by improving staff familiarity, knowledge, and comfort with SGM needs, experiences, and health concerns.

CDC’s Ally Training is a 1-day, small-group, interactive course led by skilled trainers that was adapted from the Safe Zone Project. It provides a space for learning through conversation, activities, and scenarios. We integrated formal evaluation into the Ally Training, because evaluation is critical to ensure desired outcomes, improve programs, and understand implementation in additional settings.

Our paper in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice describes the evaluation findings related to the desired outcomes of increased participant knowledge; change in participant attitudes; and increased willingness of participants to confront homophobic, transphobic, and heteronormative remarks in group settings.

What we found:

We invited trainees to answer survey questions at the beginning of the training and immediately after completing the last training module. Participant ratings of the training overall showed that it was positively received by the trainees. In addition, there was an over 40% increase in measures of participant knowledge. Participants also showed increases in Ally Identity, which is a person who seeks to understand the needs of LGBTQ+ people and challenge discriminatory and unfair treatment. Finally, our results demonstrated an increase in positive perceptions of SGM people. These across-the-board positive results indicate this type of employee training may be a useful tool for improving staff knowledge and attitudes toward SGM employees.

Why this is important:

  • Ally trainings promote awareness of topics related to SGM employees in the workplace and are intended to create a welcoming environment for SGM staff, provide information about support systems for SGM staff, improve norms and attitudes toward SGM staff, and encourage a more diverse and inclusive culture that can better serve SGM people.
  • Rigorous evaluation of workforce trainings is critical for ensuring continuous improvement and that courses meet their desired outcomes.
  • While longer-term evidence is needed, current results suggest that the CDC Ally Training changed knowledge and attitudes, which are foundational components of organizational change efforts related to SGM inclusivity.

Read our paper in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice to learn more about the Ally Training Program at CDC and how evaluation can help trainers achieve desired outcomes and improve programs.

Erin Thomas is a Health Scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She holds a PhD in Sociology with a specialty in Racial Inequality. Her public health research spans a variety of topics — from emergency preparedness to breastfeeding — but each involves applying her social science expertise and evaluation experience to understand and address public health priorities.

Ethan Fechter-Leggett, DVM, MPVM, is a Lead Research Epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has served as a board member of GLOBE, the Organization for LGBTQ+ Colleagues and Allies at CDC/ATSDR, and co-chairs the CDC/ATSDR Sexual and Gender Minorities Workgroup that provides technical consultation on sexual orientation and gender identity questions on research and public health surveillance data collections.

Gregorio Bautista, MPH, is a Health Scientist in the Office of Health Equity of the National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His work focuses on populations that experience disparities in infectious diseases.

Daniel Kidder is CDC’s Chief Evaluation Officer where he works across CDC and with other federal agencies to improve program monitoring and evaluation capacity and the use of findings for program improvement.


Melissa Jennings is a Public Health Analyst at CDC with a background in Evaluation and Human Centered Design Principles.