- As businesses develop and improve their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, new data raises questions about how some policies are being implemented. Fifty-two percent of hiring managers who work at a company with a DEI initiative say they believe the company practices “reverse discrimination” in hiring, according to a Nov. 2 online survey by ResumeBuilder.com and Pollfish.
- Of the 1,000 hiring managers surveyed, 873 work for companies with a DEI initiative. Nearly half say they’ve been told to prioritize diversity over qualifications (although slightly more than half say they weren’t told this). About 1 in 6 say they’ve been told to deprioritize White men when evaluating job candidates. A quarter (25%) strongly believe, and 28% somewhat believe, they could lose their job if they don’t hire enough diverse candidates. More than 600 of the managers surveyed identify as White, according to the survey data.
- However, there are significant positive results: 87% of hiring managers say their company has successfully hired more diverse employees due to DEI initiatives, and 60% strongly believe the initiatives have improved their company. The takeaway? “To insure fair hiring policies regarding diversity, equity and inclusion, HR professionals need to make sure managers are not translating their objectives into comments or goals that can be taken as reverse discrimination,” Stacie Haller, ResumeBuilder’s career expert, told HR Dive. “The objective is to make hiring decisions regardless of race, sex, or age and to make sure that bias is not infringing on the process.”
ResumeBuilder ran the survey in early November because the topics “were more likely to be at the forefront of people’s minds just ahead of midterms, which we hoped would prompt survey respondents to answer accurately and thoughtfully,” the company explained to HR Dive in an email.
The outstanding issue — allegations of “reverse discrimination” — isn’t new, possibly dating back to the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era of the 1860s, a Nov. 6 column in the Washington Post posits. Employees and others are now raising the issue as a pushback to DEI initiatives they say discriminate against them because they are White.
That’s the reason Starbucks shareholder and conservative think tank National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) sued Howard Schultz and other company executives. “Starbucks has set goals for the number of ‘diverse’ – meaning non-White – employees it hires, and those goals are tied to executive compensation. That is outright racial discrimination,” NCPPR’s director said in an August press statement.
That same month, a federal court slashed the highly publicized $10 million jury award to a White male executive who claimed he was fired because of his race and gender and replaced with two women to further the employer’s diversity initiative. The court cut the award to conform with Title VII’s cap on damages, but it found ample evidence to support the verdict.
Echoing what other experts have told HR Dive, ResumeBuilder’s Haller cautioned that to ensure they are instituting their policies fairly, employers and HR professionals need to consult legal and DEI experts.
Not actively involving counsel and other experts may cause middle managers to misinterpret the message. The ResumeBuilder survey found that 45% of the hiring managers felt pressured by company higher-ups to hire diverse candidates. But “companies get better results when they ease up on the control tactics,” a 2016 Harvard Business Review post explained.
It’s also more effective to engage managers in solving the problem, the HBR post added. A DEI expert HR Dive interviewed in March offered similar advice. He said DEI leaders should involve the widest breadth of people — including those who belong to the majority — in discussions about policies and practices. Equity is about all people, and White, heterosexual, able-bodied men must be invited and welcomed to the table, the expert emphasized.
“Most companies are looking to diversify their workforce,” Haller noted. “It’s a movement in progress as lawyers and DEI experts continue to weigh in on the fairest ways to adopt these practices,” she said. But “it’s unproductive to fight inequality by furthering accusations of more inequality.”