‘There will always be fearmongering tactics,’ says Gartner’s director of HR on DE&I pushback

As corporate DE&I programs face pushback, Gartner’s Chandra Robinson says this time is an opportunity to evaluate corporate values.
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· 3 min read

Amid the continuing discourse surrounding affirmative action and workplace diversity programs, some believe DE&I efforts will fizzle like an open bottle of Coke on a hot day. However, one expert told HR Brew that the majority of companies will likely stay the course.

What’s happening? At the end of June, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action programs at universities, ruling that race can no longer be considered in the admissions process.

Shortly after, Republican attorneys general sent corporations a letter suggesting that workplace diversity programs are discriminatory and could be unlawful.

However, “the bottom line is that the SCOTUS decision on affirmative action has no legal effect on workplace law. Hiring and firing decisions cannot be impacted by protected traits, period. This has been the case for a long time,” according to Laura Mattiacci, a lawyer and co-managing partner at Console Mattiacci Law, who spoke to CBS MoneyWatch.

The SCOTUS decision and letter arrive amid a backlash against corporate diversity programs, and as some DE&I jobs have been eliminated since the start of 2023.

Perception mixed with reality. Chandra Robinson, director of HR at Gartner, said that the company has been “inundated with” requests for advice about DE&I programs since the ruling. She said that one of the false assumptions about DE&I programs is that they prioritize one group of people over another.

“There are always going to be fearmongering tactics,” Robinson told HR Brew, explaining that this type of pushback has really happened since affirmative action was enacted in 1961. “You will always have a subset for example of employees, who just for whatever their belief systems are, they push back.”

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Robinson reminds HR leaders that, “Title VII covers the workplace, which is to ensure equal employment opportunity,” and “Employers must [do] as they were doing previously, as they were moving forward with their DE&I efforts, as they have to always consider applicants for all positions, regardless of their background.”

Impacts of “diversity ditching.” “Companies invest because diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces are more agile, more resilient and are sustainably more successful than organizations [that] do less of those investments,” Aniela Unguresan, founder and CEO of the EDGE Certified Foundation, an DE&I course company, told Axios.

Companies that do pull back on the diversity commitments (or engage in, what The Muse calls, “diversity ditching”) may experience issues with talent retention, according to a July survey of 800 site users from The Muse. Some 80% of respondents said they’re more likely to look for a new job in the next year because their company has walked back its “diversity commitments.” Furthermore, two-thirds reported that their company has scaled back on its diversity efforts, including recruiting and hiring diverse candidates, discussing DE&I, and retaining diversity leaders.

Robinson, who told HR Brew that “many of [Gartner’s] clients are staying the course” on DE&I, said that organizations should look at their fundamental values, make sure that employees of all backgrounds can thrive, and “dispel many of those misnomers that are typically attributed to the DE&I profession.”

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