The Decline of DEI

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a heartwarming article on DEI: “The Rise and Fall of the Chief Diversity Officer.”

Two years ago chief diversity officers were some of the hottest hires into executive ranks. Now, they increasingly feel left out in the cold.

Companies including Netflix, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery have recently said that high-profile diversity, equity and inclusion executives will be leaving their jobs. Thousands of diversity-focused workers have been laid off since last year, and some companies are scaling back racial justice commitments.

This is great news. It is driven, the Journal says, by the tech sector’s “shakeout” last fall, and also by the Supreme Court’s Harvard and UNC decisions:

Some chief diversity officers say their work is facing additional scrutiny since the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions and companies brace for potential legal challenges. DEI work has also become a political target.

As it should be. DEI basically means race discrimination, which is politically unpopular.

One question, of course, is how many companies were actually serious about DEI in the first place, as opposed to following a fad that emerged after the George Floyd incident and subsequent riots.

In interviews, current and former chief diversity officers said company executives at times didn’t want to change hiring or promotion processes, despite initially telling CDOs they were hired to improve the talent pipeline. The quick about-face shows company enthusiasm for diversity initiatives hasn’t always proved durable, leaving some diversity officers now questioning their career path.

Another basic question is what, exactly, DEI officers are supposed to be responsible for. The answer can be disquieting:

Once mostly tasked with HR matters, today’s diversity leaders are expected to weigh in on new product development, marketing efforts and current events that have an impact on how workers and consumers are feeling. Warren and other CDOs said the expanded remit is playing out in a politically divided environment where corporate diversity efforts are the subject of frequent social-media firestorms.

Heh. Other companies have seen what happened to Bud Light and Target.

Happily, the numbers show that the DEI craze is receding dramatically:

New analysis from employment data provider Live Data Technologies shows that chief diversity officers have been more vulnerable to layoffs than their human resources counterparts, experiencing 40% higher turnover. Their job searches are also taking longer.
The number of [Chief Diversity Officer] searches is down 75% in the past year, says Jason Hanold, chief executive of Hanold Associates Executive Search, which works with Fortune 100 companies to recruit HR and DEI executives, among other roles.

Let’s hope the trend continues.

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