- President Donald Trump is terminating diversity training for federal agencies that include critical race theory or refer to white privilege. The sessions train "government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda," according to a two-page Sept. 4 memo written by White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russell Vought.
- Press reports indicated that Executive Branch employees were required to attend training sessions in which they were allegedly told "virtually all White people contribute to racism" and that White individuals were required to state that they "benefit from racism," Vought said in the memo. The training sessions allegedly taught that there is "racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job," he said in the memo.
- Under Trump's directive, federal agencies have been instructed to end training sessions that teach or suggest that the U.S. "is an inherently racist or evil country or that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil," Vought said. Agencies must legally begin to cancel contracts or divert federal funds away from vendors conducting such training sessions, according to the memo. OMB will "shortly" release more detailed guidance on implementing Trump's directive, Vought said.
Trump's directive for federal agencies comes at a time when many companies are analyzing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives amid disparities of the COVID-19 pandemic and national calls for racial justice following the killing of George Floyd. Some companies have even hired or expanded the role of the diversity and inclusion (D&I) executive.
In the last 10 years, the hiring of D&I professionals has accelerated, Haven Cockerham, CEO and founder of Cockerham and Associates, told HR Dive in a previous interview. "Diversity work grew out of affirmative action, [equal employment opportunity laws] and HR," Cockerham said. And, due to the work of D&I practitioners and evidence on return on investment (ROI), diversity and inclusion is now seen as a best business practice, Anita Ward, the chief development officer at Salary Finance, recently told HR Dive.
Within the past five years, many CEOs began realizing that diverse teams and boards were yielding better results and that "there's actually an ROI," Ward said. "D&I professionals continued to lean in to show that, in fact, there is a business return, to show that inclusive teams are much more creative," she said. Ward is a representative of the financial services community group within the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion cofounded by PwC U.S. Chair and Senior Partner Tim Ryan in 2016.
However, organizations often struggle with deploying diversity, equity and inclusion goals, even though diverse workplaces boost business performance. "It can be really challenging for companies to figure out where to start," David Pedulla, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, told HR Dive in a previous interview. Pedulla suggested using evidence-based insights to create initiatives and, later on, quantifiable goals.
"What Works? Evidence-Based Ideas to Increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace," is a compilation of DEI research released May 13. A study indicated that improvements in implicit (and explicit) attitudes in the workplace toward race, skin tone and gender roles can improve over the long-term as a result of "large-scale cultural shifts." It can benefit organizations to understand the nature of implicit social cognition — how individuals process information — including its parameters for change, according to Harvard researchers. Many major U.S. companies have participated in diversity training on implicit bias.
In the OMB memo, Vought did not indicate the media outlet that produced the reports on the diversity training sessions for federal agencies. However, Sept. 5 Trump shared a Sept. 2 tweet with a video clip of a "Tucker Carlson Tonight '' segment on Fox News featuring Christopher Rufo, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty, a conservative nonprofit organization. Rufo told Carlson that his investigations found that critical race theory has "pervaded every federal institution in the government" and is being "weaponized against the American people." It's within Trump's authority "to immediately issue an executive order abolishing critical race theory trainings from the federal government," Rufo said.
As diversity training is being restructured on the federal level, experts have said a focus on D&I is essential for the future of U.S. businesses, pointing to succession planning, according to a January report by Gartner. As research continues to show that D&I helps improve performance and culture, "organizations have realized that a homogeneous succession pipeline poses significant risks to the bottom line," Gartner said.