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.
Diversity, equity and inclusion—or DEI—jobs were put in the crosshairs after many companies started re-examining their executive ranks during the tech sector’s shake out last fall. 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.
DEI work, or DIE as I prefer to call it, a political target because making job determinations on the basis of race is the very definition of racism.
…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.
Diversity is one value—a good one—of many. It’s not necessarily the most important. Companies who have elevated this value above all others are finding that it generally hinders rather than helps the bottom line.
…Since the Supreme Court overturned affirmative action in June, companies are anticipating spillover legal action could have an impact on them. Those that are still hiring CDOs want people who can help the board navigate the political and legal landscape of diversity work and figure out how to take defensive moves to shield them from litigation, says Tina Shah Paikeday, global leader of Russell Reynolds’s diversity, equity and inclusion practice.
“They recognize it would be smart to get ahead of that.”
No kidding. It’s easy to imagine that a company’s DIE practices may have run afoul of the law in the last few years. Generally speaking, race should not be a characteristic that is taken into account for hiring. (In case you’re wondering, one can imagine exceptions for modeling and acting, for example.)
The sooner all this goes away, the happier we should all be.