By Stacy M. Brown
Workplace diversity initiatives are more complex than the affirmative action policies implemented in college admissions, which the Supreme Court struck a significant blow against last month.
Human resources managers said these initiatives encompass various approaches, such as anti-bias training, mentorship programs, targeted outreach efforts, and more.
They also form a comprehensive range of programs that companies adopt to create inclusive and welcoming environments for employees and customers.
In contrast, affirmative action is just one specific policy among several options available to enhance diversity and inclusivity in various settings, whether educational institutions or workplaces.
“DEI is so much broader than that … targeted outreach at diverse colleges, auditing policies and procedures to remove implicit bias or creating employee resource groups of mentorship – those practices are not really regulated by Title VII in the sense that it doesn’t actually involve making a concrete employment decision around hiring and promoting,” David Glasgow, executive director of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at New York University Law School, told The Guardian.
Glasgow pointed out that even if the court’s decision does not directly apply to employers, the decision could embolden people inside companies “to use the decision as an excuse to push back on [DEI initiatives]”, he said.
The newspaper said the conservative legal movement is likely to directly target DEI initiatives under the guise of discrimination, just like they did with affirmative action in higher education.
What this means for companies is essentially a continuation of the ongoing “culture wars” that has already reached corporate America.
Employees and consumers “will push back if a company revokes its DEI efforts,” which could lead to serious consequences for a business, the newspaper editorialized.
“You’re going to be under pressure from your workers to keep these programs going. You’re also going to be facing talent sourcing pressures, and market pressures,” Alvin Tillery, professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern University, said in the same article.
The Supreme Court affirmative action case was “a Title VI decision about college admissions,” he stated.
“They should not be overly complying before anything has happened around Title VII. They should be thinking about how to foolproof their existing programs even before the challenges start.”
In what’s already a trend for the entertainment industry, three prominent studios and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have recently bid farewell to their top diversity executives.
The departures have sparked a growing perception that the industry may be placing the vital principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) on the back burner.
The push for diversity, which gained significant momentum following the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, now appears to have lost most of its steam after just three years.
The events have raised questions about the true intentions behind these diversity-focused roles.
Actress Yvette Nicole Brown, known for her role in “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” expressed her disappointment on Twitter, suggesting that the symbolic black squares posted on social media after the tragic murder of George Floyd in 2020 may have been empty gestures.
“I guess all those black boxes after George Floyd was murdered were for nothing,” she stated.
The exodus of diversity executives includes the departure of Disney’s chief diversity officer and senior vice president, Latondra Newton.
A veteran of six years at the company, Newton left on June 20 to pursue “other endeavors.”
Her exit reportedly was celebrated by a faction of individuals who criticized her for her involvement in the casting of Black actress and singer Halle Bailey as the lead in “The Little Mermaid.”
Netflix’s head of inclusion strategy, Vernā Myers, was the next to announce her departure, set for September.
Myers, who had held the position for five years, pioneered the role at Netflix.
While stepping down, she said she would continue to advise the streaming giant while directing her attention to her consulting company, The Vernā Myers Company.
Additionally, Discovery removed Karen Horne from her position as SVP of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The departure of Horne, who joined the company in March 2020, coincided with the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Affirmative Action in education.
Simultaneously, the Academy bid farewell to Jeanell English, its EVP of Impact and Inclusion.
Academy CEO Bill Kramer created English’s role in July 2022.
With those departures, concern has grown regarding the long-term commitment of major studios and industry organizations to prioritize DEI initiatives.
“While the real reasons behind these departures may vary, the entertainment industry must reaffirm its dedication to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure lasting progress and representation on and off the screen,” said Jan Krukow, a District of Columbia-based advertising executive.