The diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) pendulum has begun a swing downward from its high point of corporate adoption following the civil unrest in 2020, which saw consumers and employees demand organizations make public social commitments aimed at creating a more equitable workplace.
In 2023, ROI has seen a 55% reduction in requests for DEI-related communication support year over year. The ongoing DEI work that ROI supports its clients with has seen budget reductions upwards of 30%, almost double the reduction compared to the average of 15% for other employee-focused work which is expected in a churning marketplace.
Companies in the U.S. are feeling the multi-prong effects of the SCOTUS rulings striking affirmative action in college admissions, a downward-trending tech market that has led to waves of layoffs, and increased political polarization that has given rise to extremely visible consumer backlash, particularly in the LGBTQ+ space.
Hiring for the position of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) has declined, tenure rates for CDOs are a third of their c-suite counterparts, and DEI roles have a 1 in 3 chance of turnover which is 12% higher than non-DEI roles.
Despite the broad-stroke downturn, ROI has noted that DEI sentiment and support remains steadfast and consistent, particularly in companies with DEI foundations prior to 2020. Those organizations have the benefit of having weathered previous marketplace downturns while understanding DEI as a key component to innovation and marketplace edge, particularly in the technology and energy sectors.
ROI notes that it’s critical to make visible progress at the leadership level as it remains an important factor in the perceived success of DEI initiatives. During a recent DEI survey for an ROI client, a common employee-vocalized theme was summed up: “It doesn’t matter what you say. If we don’t see the leadership stats becoming more diverse, it doesn’t matter what the communications are.”