2023: A Difficult year for ‘DEI’
After the social justice movements following George Floyd’s death in 2020, there was a surge in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in the U.S. However, these programmes have seen a decline in interest, with a 44% drop in DEI-related job postings in 2023, according to data from Indeed. Layoffs and the fear of discrimination lawsuits are the main reasons behind this trend.
Many tech companies, which over hired during the COVID-19 pandemic, reduced their workforce in 2023, with DEI jobs being cut at a higher rate. Notably, tech giants like Google and Meta scaled back their DEI programmes despite previous commitments made after the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
Some companies drastically reduced their DEI budgets, with reports of up to 90% cuts by mid-year 2023. Conservative groups threatening lawsuits led several corporations, including JPMorgan Chase, to modify their internal diversity policies.
Prominent figures such as Elon Musk, Bari Weiss, and Bill Ackman have called for an end to DEI initiatives, contributing to a backlash against these programs. Six major U.S. companies, including JPMorgan Chase, revised their diversity policies after receiving shareholder letters claiming their DEI programmes constituted illegal discrimination.
In academia, DEI initiatives faced challenges, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Harvard’s use of affirmative action in admissions as unconstitutional. Florida and Oklahoma Republican governors banned DEI from state colleges and universities.
Looking ahead to 2024, there is momentum against DEI initiatives, with some critics viewing them as job programmes that may lead to reverse discrimination.