Three Key Points in Response to the Recent Anti-DEI Backlash

I have been asked by several clients lately for discussion and suggestions on how to handle the recent anti-DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) backlash. State legislatures in several states continue to shut down publicly funded diversity work and the Supreme Court recently ruled Harvard’s and University of North Carolina’s diversity focus in admissions as unconstitutional. As DEI critics become more vocal and emblazoned, organizations are starting to worry about how that can impact their DEI efforts.

Interestingly enough, over the past decades, it has been the business world taking the lead on DEI efforts as our governments and religious institutions have failed us. See my May 2022 blog, “Once again – Corporations are Called to Lead on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” And at this juncture, it will need to be corporations taking the lead on fighting this harmful backlash.

I make three major points when asked about how to address this anti-DEI movement:

1) No one can deny the demographics – our country is becoming increasingly diverse.
• Some time around 2040 or 2042, the US will be a “minority-majority” country; the African-American, Asian and Hispanic populations will outnumber white Americans.
• According to a Gallup poll, 20% of adult Gen-Zers (people between 18 – 26 years old) now outwardly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
• And every decade since the 1960s, both the percentage and raw number of people living here born outside the US has increased.
We cannot hide from this fact and need to be ready to manage a more diverse workforce and serve an increasing diverse customer or client set.

Studies show that well managed diverse teams deliver better business results.

2) The DEI naysayers are reacting more out of fear of losing power and influence instead of focusing on the positive aspects of diversity. Diversity is what has made the USA unique and strong; people coming from all over the world bringing their ambitions and ingenuity. And in the business realm, many studies show that well-managed diverse organizations out- perform homogenous ones. One of the most often quoted series about this is from McKinsey & Company, with their 4th study “Diversity Matters Even More: The Case for Holistic Impact” published December, 2023.

3) The DEI naysayers frame the discussion as “we vs them” instead of “everybody is a valuable part of the diversity mix.” Diversity includes everybody, and should never be a discussion of the diverse vs. the non-diverse. Every single person is a unique combination of all their intersectional diversity attributes and hence has something special to offer. Everyone should ask, “what makes me unique, and what special strength can I contribute to the enterprise?” And when everyone brings their full selves to the organization in a positive way without demonizing (see my 2019 blog “Why So Much Hate?”) or putting down others, the results can be phenomenal.

Let’s now all work together to value and leverage the diversity that all of us bring to our world!