After two years of gains, diversity, equity and inclusion programs nationwide appear to be stalling, new research from Glassdoor shows.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, access to DEI initiatives jumped from 29% in 2019 to 43% in 2021. But, through the third quarter of 2022, that number has dipped to 41%, according to Glassdoor’s analysis of worker benefit reviews.
Glassdoor Chief Economist Aaron Terrazas, a co-author of the company’s recent DEI research, says the question he and others are asking is whether this is a temporary pause because of concerns about the economy or if DEI efforts have reached a plateau.
As layoffs hit the tech sector and employers brace for a potential recession, Terrazas warned about the danger to DEI programs and positions.
“Historically, non-core functions like HR, like learning and development, like DE&I, were the first things to be reconsidered,” Terrazas told HR Dive.
Elon Musk has already dissolved the company’s employee resource groups after his acquisition of the company, including Twitter Women and Blackbirds, an ERG for Black employees, and mandated that workers return to the office, spurring a class-action lawsuit alleging disability discrimination. The company’s chief of people and diversity resigned immediately.
Jonathan Higgins, an adjunct professor of educational justice at the University of Redlands in California, said they see conversations about DEI “drying up.”
“Right now, everybody is content. It’s 2022. Nobody is following up with the things they said were going to do in 2020,” Higgins said. “I think people realize how much true damage has been done in these systems and how much work it's going to take to fix these systems … You’re going to have to spend more money to do the right thing.”
Terrazas said it’s not clear if the decline in DEI programs is purely economically driven.
“They have grown so much over the past two years; perhaps this is just a breather,” he said.
However, as companies tighten budgets amid a softening economy, Terrazas does expect to see a greater focus on the effectiveness of DEI programs.
“HR leaders are going to have to make a much stronger case for why these matter to executive teams. Given what is likely to be a softer economy in 2023, employers across the board are evaluating the full slate of benefits and what matters to employees,” he said.
A Glassdoor survey conducted in September by market research firm The Harris Poll revealed that 36% of employees aged 18-44 consider D&I to be an important factor when determining where to work.