Since the Supreme Court’s reversal of affirmative action in June 2023, efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in schools and organizations have faced increased scrutiny. Although the ruling didn’t directly affect workplace culture, it created a domino effect that caused speculation over the need for and value of DEI programs.  

Now, companies are pulling back their DEI initiatives—reallocating entire budgets once set aside for diversity, equity and inclusion toward other interests, eliminating DEI labels, or doing away with DEI metrics and goals altogether.

Diversity programs were established to help level the playing field so minorities, women, veterans, LGBTQIA+, and disadvantaged individuals have equitable access to opportunities—access that, historically, has been significantly imbalanced. Eliminating diversity programs and initiatives is a loss not only for the individuals who participate but for every company that benefits from the value these individuals bring to the table.

Why some companies are pulling back on DEI:

  • A lack of genuine commitment from the beginning. After the 2020 murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, racial justice efforts ignited and pushed companies to move beyond support and into action. At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, companies committed to focusing more on diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout their organizations by diversifying their workforce and leadership. Now, leaders who pushed DEI initiatives at the time but weren’t committed to DEI for the long haul are doing away with those initiatives.
  • Legal implications. Since 2023, 81 anti-DEI legislation bills have been introduced in the U.S.  prohibiting colleges from having diversity, equity, and inclusion offices or staff. These bills also affect mandatory DEI training, diversity statements, and/or identity-based preferences for hiring and admissions. While the legislation is toward colleges, the resulting contention has made companies hesitant to continue putting time, money and effort into their DEI initiatives and overarching business diversity strategies.

Still, DEI experts assert that DEI is here to stay, and that the companies who are persistent in maintaining their diversity programs will “attract a wider range of talent and reap the financial benefits.”

How This Affects Business Diversity

Any drawback to diversity, equity, and inclusion jeopardizes business diversity as a whole. While the term “business diversity” is still relatively new, the concept is not. Business diversity ensures every corner of your business—leadership, employment, supplier diversity, procurement, and outreach—is embedded in DE&I, ESG and organizational strategy. Business diversity aligns the DEI and the strategic sourcing teams, allowing them to work together on an integrated solution to communicate, promote and enforce your various initiatives.

Despite drawbacks to DEI and business diversity, research consistently demonstrates the undeniable benefits of a diverse workforce:

  • Enhanced Problem-Solving: Diverse teams bring together a wider range of perspectives, experiences, and knowledge. This leads to richer discussions, more creative solutions, and better decision-making.
  • Improved Innovation: When employees feel valued and heard, they’re more likely to share ideas and challenge the status quo. This fosters an environment ripe for innovation.
  • Stronger Talent Pool: A genuine commitment to DEI attracts a wider pool of qualified candidates, leading to a more competitive and talented workforce.
  • Enhanced Brand Reputation: Consumers today increasingly support companies that champion inclusivity. A strong DEI strategy strengthens your brand image.
  • Market Advantage: Diverse teams are better equipped to understand and cater to diverse customer bases, giving your company a significant market advantage.

Instead of pulling back on DEI, companies should continue to champion business diversity by promoting diversity throughout their entire organization: employment, partnerships, outreach efforts, and beyond. In maintaining DEI programs, organizations show their employees, leadership, and communities that they are serious about closing the wealth gap, creating opportunities, and tapping into the additional benefits offered by diversity.

Here are some key steps to ensure your DEI efforts remain a priority:

  • Leadership Commitment: Executive buy-in is crucial for successful DEI implementation. Leaders must champion diversity and be accountable for progress.
  • Data-Driven Approach: Track your progress using data to identify areas for improvement and demonstrate the impact of your DEI initiatives.
  • Ongoing Training & Education: Regular diversity training helps employees understand unconscious bias and fosters a more inclusive work environment.

The Bottom Line

The notion that DEI initiatives give minorities an unfair advantage in the job market couldn’t be further from the truth. Good work is good work. And doing away with diversity programs takes away opportunities that deserving individuals wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

Diversity and inclusion initiatives and supplier diversity programs pull people who have been disenfranchised into the economic fabric of society. Doing away with them will only weaken your system as an organization.

Just as diversity programs can be dismantled, they can also be rebuilt; stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before.

Originally posted on Medium.