Corporate America dialed back overall enthusiasm for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, also known as DEI, according to research from Glassdoor.
The company review platform found that 41% of workplaces offered diversity programs as a benefit, a decline from 43% in 2021. Enthusiasm for such programs rose after the death of George Floyd and a resultant surge in social justice activism; 39% of companies offered diversity programs in 2020, compared to 29% in 2019.
Sectors such as media and communications, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and personal consumer services witnessed the largest increase in diversity offerings. Government and public administration, however, was the only sector where diversity programs declined between 2019 and 2022. Employee resource groups, which feature initiatives that “ensure diverse candidate pools for open roles, reporting of company diversity statistics, and analysis of pay gaps,” enjoyed a tremendous rise in corporate investments over the past few years, according to Glassdoor.
Businesses in the northeastern and western United States, which are home to many of the most liberal population centers in the country, saw the sharpest rise in diversity program offerings between 2019 and 2021, with growth stagnating more recently and in some cases declining. Employees working for companies in New England, the Middle Atlantic, and the Pacific Coast were most likely to have access to a diversity program, with 60% or more of benefits reviews indicating the presence of such initiatives.
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Critics of DEI programs argue that proponents tend to advance the mingling of racial or sexual identity with critical hiring decisions, leading to a decline in overall profitability and efficiency as efforts to hire the most qualified candidates are deprioritized. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which ranks among the world’s top postsecondary business programs, has unveiled a new set of DEI concentrations for undergraduate and graduate students.
More than two-thirds of employee reviewers saw diversity programs as a benefit, while a “small, stable minority” of between 15% and 21% of employee reviewers saw them as a detriment, according to the analysis. Increased favorability for diversity initiatives “has been due to more positive views among those who were previously ambivalent about these programs.”
Diversity offerings were least popular among members of the Baby Boomer generation, in which 70% of women and 56% of men expressed support. The approval gap between the sexes closed among those in the Millennial generation, where 79% of both men and women voiced support for the programs. Generational trends within various racial groups differed; younger white and Hispanic employees were more likely to approve of diversity initiatives than their older counterparts, while older black employees were more supportive than younger employees.
Glassdoor concluded that diversity programs are especially important for businesses seeking to attract younger employees. Such offerings are “increasingly widespread across the United States despite continued gaps, and overwhelming shares of employees view these initiatives in a positive light,” the analysis said.
President Joe Biden has emphasized a “total transformation of government” centered upon diversity, a policy that has impacted multiple appointment decisions. The commander-in-chief sparked controversy when he committed to choosing a female vice president and a black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.