The diversity, equity, and inclusion industry exploded in 2020 and 2021, but it is undergoing a reckoning of late, and not just in states controlled by Republicans, where officials are dismantling DEI bureaucracies in public institutions. Corporations are cutting back on DEI spending and personnel. News outlets such as The New York Times and New York magazine are publishing more articles that cover the industry with skepticism. And DEI practitioners themselves are raising concerns about how their competitors operate.
The scrutiny is overdue. This growing multibillion-dollar industry was embedded into so many powerful public and private institutions so quickly that due diligence was skipped and costly failures guaranteed.
Now and forever, employers should advertise jobs to applicants of all races and ethnicities, afford everyone an equal opportunity to be hired and promoted, manage workplaces free of discrimination, and foster company cultures where everyone is treated with dignity. America should conserve any gains it has made in recent years toward an equal-opportunity economy. Perhaps the best of the DEI industry spurred the country in that direction.
However, the worst of the DEI industry is expensive and runs from useless to counterproductive. And even people who highly value diversity and inclusion should feel queasy about the DEI gold rush that began in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. A poor Black man’s death became a pretext to sell hazily defined consulting services to corporations, as if billions in outlays, mostly among relatively privileged corporate workers, was an apt and equitable response. A radical course correction is warranted––but first, let’s reflect on how we got here.