Friday, January 05, 2024

“DEI programs in the tech industry are in broad retreat”

By William A. Jacobson 

Slide from Coca Cola DEI training, via YouTube

CNBC notes not only cuts, but also scaling back of hiring: “By mid-2023, DEI-related job postings had declined 44% from the same time a year prior…. In November 2023, the last full month for which data was available, it dropped 23% year over year.”

Critical Race Theory's offshoot “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” captured and imprisoned most of academia and many corporations in the aftermath of George Floyd's death.

It was a frenzy to virtue signal and throw money at …. well that was the problem. What exactly were they trying to fix? The DEI industrial complex, fueled by tens of billions of dollars, had no actual solutions. I have argued endlessly that DEI makes things worse by focusing on group identity rather than individual merit, by setting groups against each other in zero-sum games, and by demoralizing and demeaning the very people (loosely, ‘non-whites’) DEI purported to help. And it is now widely recognized that the oppressor-oppressed false narrative pushed by many if not most DEI programming is a leading contributor and instigator of antisemitism.

Can anyone point to any measurable accomplishment of the billions of dollars spent on DEI? And by accomplishment, I don’t mean job-creating for a DEI bureaucracy that adds zero economic value.

In the education field, which is largely divorced from DEI-conomics, it has been up to legislators and Governors in red states to scale back the DEI bureaucracy. In the corporate world, the virtue signaling appears to be meeting economic reality, and corporations are scaling back.

As CNBC reports, tech companies are eliminating DEI positions at a furious pace, with these “key points”:

  • After vocal commitments following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, DEI programs in the tech industry are in broad retreat.
  • Some companies have laid off DEI staffers and leaders of diverse employee resource groups, downsized learning and development programs, and cut budgets for external DEI groups by as much as 90% in 2023, sources told CNBC.
  • The cuts come as the tech industry doubles down on artificial intelligence. With fewer diverse voices represented in AI development, the resulting products could be less accurate or more harmful to users.

The article continues:

But in 2023, some of those [DEI] programs are in retreat.

By mid-2023, DEI-related job postings had declined 44% from the same time a year prior, according to data provided by job site Indeed. In November 2023, the last full month for which data was available, it dropped 23% year over year.

That’s a sharp contrast with the period from 2020 to 2021, when those postings expanded nearly 30%.

In line with this broader trend, both Google and Meta have cut staffers and downsized programs that fell under DEI investment.

The year’s cuts have also impacted smaller, third-party organizations who counted on big tech clients for work, despite the continued growth of those tech giants.

“Whenever there is an economic downturn in tech, some of the first budgets that are cut are in DEI, but I don’t think we’ve seen such stark contrast as this year,” said Melinda Briana Epler, founder and CEO of Empovia, which advises companies and leaders to use a research-based culture of equality….

Nearly every member of Meta’s Sourcer Development Program, more than 60 workers, was let go from the company as part of its layoff of over 11,000 workers, CNBC learned. They claimed to have received inferior severance packages compared with other workers who were laid off in the same time period. Meta’s Sourcer Development Program was intended to help workers from diverse backgrounds obtain careers in corporate technology recruiting.

Google also cut DEI leaders who worked with Chief Diversity Officer Melonie Parker, while Meta made cuts to several DEI managers — some of whom it hired in 2020.

Layoffs at Google and Meta also included employees who held leadership roles in their respective Black employee resource groups, known as ERGs….

While internal DEI programs have suffered, the cuts were arguably even harder for external organizations who expected the same amount of corporate sponsorship and support from tech companies in 2023 as they had the prior few years.

Consistent with the CNBC report, TechCruch declares, Tech’s DEI backlash is here:

DEI received a lot of support after the murder of George Floyd back in 2020, but support has waned these past few years.

It is supposed to be an overarching effort aimed at helping all disenfranchised groups, but when it is targeted, it is usually for racial reasons. Since affirmative action in education was overturned this year, founders and investors knew that the industry would find an excuse to go back to how things were, would find an excuse to stall or dismiss the little progress made these past two years. In a sense, they were right, and the decreased DEI support in business and tech has created ripple effects.

The corporate decline of DEI has been growing since ABC News reported last July, How corporate America is slashing DEI workers amid backlash to diversity programs:

DEI positions have been disproportionately hit by layoffs across industries, but particularly at tech companies, which have faced financial challenges as sales slowed from the blistering pace attained during the pandemic….

From September 2019 to September 2020, job postings for diversity, inclusion and belonging positions on the hiring website Indeed rose by 56.3%, the company said.

A LinkedIn study found that chief diversity and inclusion officer positions grew by 168.9% from 2019 to 2022.

The rapid organizational movement toward addressing inequalities was initially exciting for DEI professionals. But in just a couple of years, that excitement wavered as growth rapidly fell apart.

“The honeymoon is over,” Cecil Howard, a DEI consultant and former chief diversity officer at the University of South Florida, told ABC News….

Last year, the layoffs accelerated significantly, the study found.

Since DEI had few measurable benefits to corporations other than virtue signaling, the loss of those supposed benefits will not be missed, except by the people with vested economic interests in the feeding frenzy that is now ending.