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Why are diversity and inclusion roles declining?

Nearly three years after the murder of George Floyd, DEI roles are disappearing.
Why are diversity and inclusion roles declining?
Posted at 4:06 PM, Apr 17, 2023

DEI roles are disappearing. Dee C. Marshall is the CEO of Diverse and Engaged, a consulting and talent recruitment company.  

"It stands for diversity, equity and inclusion. And it is a critical, I'm going to say, success factor in business and workplace culture," Marshall said.  

She says following the murder of George Floyd, America reached a diversity tipping point.  

"What happened then? Corporate America began making public statements and public commitments in support of the Black community. Why? Because we were amid a global reckoning of racism against Black people in this country. It was global," Marshall said. 

But while companies rushed to take some action, many didn’t take time to ensure their commitments would make a meaningful and lasting difference, according to Lola Bakare, a marketing strategist who consults on inclusively for large companies. 

"Companies were looking for an easy button post the murder of George Floyd to feel like they were doing the right thing, but to feel that way without really investing and understanding what problems they had to solve within their particular organization," Bakare said. 

DEI roles increased by 55% between June and July in 2020 according to Glassdoor data. A Wall Street Journal article from July of that year called chief diversity officers "one of the hottest jobs in America."

In 2021, hiring for chief diversity and inclusion officers jumped 111%, according to LinkedIn data. 

That’s no longer the case. 

In 2022, hiring for the title dropped by 4.5%.  That can impact other areas of a company. A Glassdoor survey showed access to diversity programs dipped last year. And a report from workforce intelligence company Revelio Labs revealed similar findings about diversity in the workplace. 

SEE MORE: 2022 had the most deaths by police officers since 2015

Reyhan Ayas is a senior economist with Revelio Labs.  

"In a nutshell, we find that a lot of companies shifted their focus away from diversity, equity, and inclusion and this is in stark contrast to all the promises that were being made by the companies in summer 2020 in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd's murder," Ayas said. 

Its report found DEI roles declining faster than non-DEI roles beginning in 2021. It also found the attrition rate for DEI roles was 12% higher compared to non-DEI roles last year. But why are these roles declining? 

Marshall notes these jobs are seen as non-revenue producing roles. Ayas says the time of service plays a role, too.  

"It's kind of last in, first out structure. So, people who have been at the companies for a short time tend to be laid off more often," Ayas said. 

Bakare adds the rush to add DEI officers meant companies didn't clearly define what the roles were or what success in the roles looked like. She believes race still plays a factor when determining what jobs to cut.  

"Ask yourself why something that is known to be good for business is still shied away from. And that's when we have to confront that we are still dealing with some very real issues of institutional and societal racism," Bakare said. 

And data supports the claim — diversity is good for business.

"Absolutely, there is a business case for diversity, equity and inclusion, and it's the bottom line," Marshall said. 

According to a 2019 report from McKinsey and Company, companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed those in the bottom quartile by 36% in terms of profitability. 

Marshall says DEI efforts are situational. Corporations prioritize diversity efforts after moments like the "Me Too" movement or Black Lives Matter movement. But Marshall says for DEI to succeed, thinking around it has to change.  

"DEI should normalize, and it should be inclusive culture. Okay? We should normalize. This is not situational. And it's not just a one off, and it's not a DEI initiative. It has to permeate the entire organization and it has to no longer be surface. It needs to be systemic," Marshall said. 

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