Did DEI DIE in 2023?
As we warned a few months back, Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) job roles have steadily disappeared in 2023. Despite corporate promises to increase DEI support back in 2020, many companies have shrunk their DEI programs this year. According to CNBC last Friday, tech companies in particular have made major reductions. USA Today reported Wednesday that DEI is “under siege.” And on December 15th, Elon Musk wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “DEI must DIE. The point was to end discrimination, not replace it with different discrimination.” What is going on?
Is DEI Dying, and Should It Be Killed?
New corporate DEI goals emerged in 2020 shortly after the murder of George Floyd. Many companies were moved by public outcry and pledged to increase diversity in their employment practices. Google’s “Commitments to Racial Equity” included improving “Black+ representation at senior levels and committing to a goal to improve leadership representation of underrepresented groups by 30 percent by 2025.” These and similar promises from corporate America seemed to mark a changing tide for diversity in employment opportunities.
This ignited hope for people that live and work with disabilities. People with disabilities are an underrepresented part of the national workforce that regularly faces discrimination. Many workplaces lack the accommodations and flexibility required to offer positions to people with unique needs. Could a movement towards Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion give more people the opportunity to be self-sufficient and productive?
Unfortunately, the DEI movement has taken a dark turn this year. As Google and Meta retreat from their diversity programs, public opinion seems to be souring on the movement. USA Today reports that companies promoting DEI initiatives are being accused of ‘reverse discrimination.’ A Facebook Diversity manager recently plead guilty to embezzling over $4 million dollars in DEI funds from the company.
Elon Musk elaborated on his thoughts regarding DEI goals saying, ““Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” are propaganda words for racism, sexism and other -isms. This is just as morally wrong as any other racism and sexism. Changing the target class doesn’t make it right!”
Despite the original intent to provide everyone a fair shot at a good job, DEI is earning a bad reputation. And as corporations brace for a wave of “reverse discrimination” lawsuits against DEI programs, people still need work.
DEI in Principle
The public is clearly struggling to manage diversity in the workplace. But people still need work. While political fervor and individual activism continue to butt heads, we hope that honest companies and managers simply keep an open mind during their hiring process.
Far too often, meaningful ideas are disparaged by the actions of overzealous or dishonest individuals. While the meaning of the DEI ‘movement’ needs to be ironed out, the intent to be fair should not be overlooked. The principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion are to treat people fairly regardless of their background or perceived limitations.
Capable business leaders don’t need politics or trends to force them to do the right thing.
“Inclusion means that people with disabilities have the opportunity to participate to the fullest extent, even at work,” states Tina Tyko of Bona Fide Conglomerate. “That is an idea, a standard, a culture. Companies that provide opportunities for people with disabilities are promoting a higher standard.”
2023 was a year of massive change. AI has already led to massive employment cuts in the tech industry- not only to DEI hires. Conservative activists are crafting serious legal challenges. Bad actors have exploited the initial DEI zeal.
None of those things should move us to forget the people that simply need a job to take care of their family. Whether now or later, it’s up to each individual to ensure cool heads prevail.