In 2020, the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police set off a wave of racial unrest across the country and corporate America responded with renewed commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Companies created new DEI positions, hiring lots of DEI Officers, consultants and expanded teams dedicated to DEI programs and training. Many corporate leaders also pledged to hire more people of color, removed branding perceived to be racist and invested in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).  

Fast forward, over the last couple of years, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives have seen both progress and setbacks. From legislative decisions to organizational strategies, the conversation about DEI has changed significantly. With the recent rulings by the Supreme Court to end affirmative action in college admissions and limit LGBTQIA+ rights, as well as other attempts to restrict corporate DEI efforts, we have seen increased opposition to DEI programs. According to NBC News analysis, Republican lawmakers in more than 30 states have introduced or passed more than 100 bills to either restrict or regulate DEI initiatives in the current legislative session. As a result, corporate attorneys are increasingly involved in the creation and implementation of DEI programs as they seek to minimize litigation risks. This can unfortunately result in support for more straightforward programming compared to initiatives that drive measurable change. HR professionals in corporate America face internal dilemmas as they navigate the consequences of simplifying or dismantling DEI programs 

Insights from a recent LinkedIn poll reveal varying opinions about the future of DEI. While some feel that there have been reduced investments in DEI programs, others see the potential demise of DEI initiatives altogether. 

This challenge to diversity initiatives extends beyond corporate settings to higher education, where anti-DEI and anti-woke legislation has gained momentum. Just this month, The University of Florida eliminated its DEI office to comply with state regulations voted in by Floriday’s Board of Governors. This resulted in the elimination of 13 full-time positions and reallocation of $5M in funds. Similarly, in 2023, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed into law a measure that requires all state funded colleges and universities to close their DEI offices. In response, Paulette Granberry Russell, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education stated, “By dismantling diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and offices at these institutions, Texas lawmakers have chosen to prioritize a political agenda instead of the success of these students.” 

Despite these challenges, voices like that of DEI thought leader, Adriele Parker emphasize the importance of DEI in fostering understanding and fairness. As Parker suggests, “DEI transcends political agendas and economic fluctuations—it is a foundational requirement for coexistence in diverse societies.” 

In looking at the DEI landscape, it is important for HR professionals to recognize and address systemic inequities as the foundation of their DEI efforts. Neglecting these factors runs the risks of exacerbating existing disparities and undermining organizational integrity. 

Ultimately, the future of DEI depends on commitment and resilience in the face of adversity. As HR professionals navigate these challenges, it is important to recognize that DEI is not just a buzzword or the flavor of the day—it is a moral imperative that goes beyond political divides and economic fluctuations.

The HR Source Diversology Workshop is back for 2024! This is your chance to take advantage of our engaging and impactful experience and seize the opportunity to learn about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in a unique way. Diversology is a small group session that delves into Diversity, Equity and inclusion from three perspectives: Awareness, Sensitivity, and Skills-building. It’s an engaging and interactive learning experience, as well as a secure space for communication and education. Participants are welcome to share their opinions and personal experiences. Take a look at our website for more information about Diversology or to learn about our three broad lines of diversity services.

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