JULY 20, 2023

A Prediction About How The Supreme Court Affirmative Action Will Affect DEIB

I’m angry and disappointed about the Supreme Court Affirmative Action decision.

As the ACLU has said, “Many schools, as well as the courts, recognize that diversity exposes students to new ideas and ways of thinking, prepares them to live and work with one another in a diverse society, and increases understanding and respect across differences. Those findings have not changed, although schools will need to rely more on other means of cultivating a campus where students of all backgrounds can learn together.”

Even if the Supreme Court doesn’t hand down a similar decision about hiring or workplace DEIB programs, you can be sure the same forces behind it will impact the American workplace in general, and DEIB work specifically. In fact, we’re already seeing the early signs.

I’m angry and disappointed, yes…but also fired up.

We’re just going to have to adapt, as we always have, and here’s how I see it playing out.

Something I believe the majority of Americans can agree on is that we still need to create a just society, where everyone can pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In the workplace, most leaders understand the value of creating workplace cultures where people can thrive, bring their best selves, and do their best work. They know that if people don’t feel safe, they’re not productive employees. They’ll just phone it in, or leave.

In our work, every day, we see how People of Color are much more willing to speak up or find a new job if they don’t have a sense of belonging. We’re not going anywhere, and we all need to learn to live and work with people who are different. This is the American Experiment.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging are proven to be good for the bottom line, not just for human beings.

The Supreme Court is asking us to not consider race, but race is and will always be the center of the equation. It’s built into the way human beings think.

The acronym “DEI,” just like “CRT” has been so twisted and tainted that it now has negative associations for large groups of Americans. It’s now a box that elicits the listener’s preexisting opinions. It has come to mean different things to different people.

At the same time, people generally believe in doing the right thing. In our workshops, all people see the value in treating others as they themselves want to be treated. They don’t object to equitable access to opportunity. They want to see each other as human beings.

Our work to create equitable workplace culture isn’t going away. It used to be called “Diversity Work” before it was DEI, then DEIB, then DEIBA. It lives differently in different countries and sectors.

All the work we’ve done these past few years, plus having more DEIB advocates, allies, and practitioners in companies, has had an impact: People expect to be treated with equity and to have their differences valued.

Not only that, GenZ is pushing the older generations in the right direction, just by their presence in the workforce.

I predict that while our work will continue, the phrase DEIB may someday be replaced with a different phrase, a label without all the connotations, a new “box.” Maybe it will be called “Leading With Humanity.” That’s the phrase we’re using now at OAIB.

Language is in constant flux, so if this does happen, and you’re a “DEIB Expert,” don’t resist the change too much, because it’s the work that’s important, not the label of the work.

I’m angry but inspired. I hope you are too.