After the death of George Floyd, corporate America was forced to look in the mirror and acknowledge its long-standing diversity problem.
From this reckoning came a much-needed influx of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives within corporate America, including many companies seeking the expertise of DEI professionals.
According to a recent study by LinkedIn, the chief diversity and inclusion officer positions grew by 168.9% from 2019 to 2022.
Sadly, over the past year DEI positions across industries have been disproportionately riddled with layoffs.
“The honeymoon is over,” Cecil Howard, a DEI consultant and former chief diversity officer at the University of South Florida, told ABC News during an interview.
“Right after George Floyd’s killing, everybody who didn’t have a diversity office quickly created a diversity office,” he added. “A few years later, they started realizing, ‘We checked the box and things are a little quieter now.'”
The LinkedIn study also found 1 in 3 DEI professionals lost their roles over one year ending in December, and that non-DEI workers experienced a relatively lower attrition over that same period.
“In 2020 a lot of organizations reacted to the market, reacted to social events taking place without really having a clear understanding of what DEI is and how it should be enabled in business,” Christie Lindor, a diversity strategist and CEO of Tessi Consulting, told ABC News.
Some DEI professionals attributed the high layoff rate to a sluggish economy but also pointed to conservative backlash against DEI as the main reason corporations seem to be losing interest in supporting diversity initiatives.
Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis recently released a video ad where he declared that “DEI is over in the state of Florida.”
He also threw shade at the acronym, re-dubbing it the “discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination” initiative.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has also targeted DEI for political gains, calling them “illegal” and ordering state agencies to stop using DEI programs in hiring.
Now that the Supreme Court has gutted Affirmative Action, Republicans feel even more emboldened to target programs and ideas that promote diversity.
“People fear losing power,” DEI professional Madison Butler told ABC News. “So much of this work has to be centered around deconstructing things like white supremacy, deconstructing status quos. And those status quos and white supremacy protect people in positions of power.”
Studies have shown that diversity in the workplace has many benefits for a business. A workplace culture that embraces DEI can not only increase profits but also reduce employee turnover, foster creativity and innovation, and drive employee productivity and performance.
Brit Levy, a former DEI employee who was laid off from Meta told ABC News that companies who decide not to embrace DEI will lose good work.
“If we don’t have employees that understand people of different cultures, different backgrounds – companies are going to find themselves losing good employees to discriminatory practices,” said Levy.
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