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When racial training becomes the bottom-line

Is diversity, equity and inclusion enough?

In this article we will continue exploring the good, the bad, and the ugly around discrimination, hate and social equity and its role in reshaping the American psyche. Community spaces and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training go together like bakery-fresh bread and soft butter. How naturally effective it is to communicate experiences and ideas around identity and culture for the purposes of building community. 

However, what happens when the purpose no longer is about building community, but rather a company’s bottom line? Does a phenomenon such as DEI translate well enough into a corporate environment where identifying racism, classism, bigotry in the workplace risks negative exposure and even revenue loss? In a capitalist-world, is DEI enough? 

According to a Harvard Study, U.S companies invested $8 billion a year on Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training with little change to workplace attitudes and behaviors around diversity, equity and inclusion. The Study revealed that many times, proposed metrics to measure a company’s -isms (racism, classism, sexism etc.) gets rejected because the metric itself becomes a liability. 

What happens if a Fortune 500 company submits to full DEI course training, as intended by early diversity pioneers, to increase sensitivity towards and awareness of racial differences. Historically, according  to author B.E. Vaughn in his book, The History of Diversity and It’s Pioneers, diversity training was deemed successful when at least “one white American admitted that he or she was racist and tearful about racial discrimination and white supremacy.” 

What company would expose in-house vulnerabilities and shoulder legal risk and even class-action suits in the name of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? 

Another collision point between these two competing ideas of capitalism and DEI is social equity. In a multi-faceted national system based on merit, the emerging theories that drive Diversity, Equity and Inclusion challenge capitalism at the root. To some degree, DEI champions ideas such as affirmative action, equity stacks, and racial diversity hiring prioritize representation first. 

The International Labour Organization cites that companies with “more inclusive business cultures and policies see a 59% increase in innovation and 37% better assessment of consumer interest and demand.” However, it is important to investigate whether these business cultures and practices are implemented during business formation, or if this data includes long-established companies. 

It is worthy to note that if business start-up culture deems integrating Diversity Equity and Inclusion as part of a company’s foundation, then the trajectory of capitalism points towards a successful future of inclusive business culture and policy. 

Conversely, even in the age of diversity, there are companies that have succumbed to the social pressure and produced a DEI report as recent as 2020, with Tesla being one of them. According to a CNBC article published on December 5, 2020, Tesla published its first diversity report seven years after Google and Apple began publishing their demographic information in 2014. 

     Although Tesla claims to be racially diverse, 83% of employees in leadership are men and 59% are White. Interestingly, 83% of young workers will quit companies without a Diversity and Inclusion policy, according to an online source. 

The baseline has been set and it’s accurate to say that in 2023, Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training and policy are an integral function of American capitalism, but is it enough? 

With the American labor force continuing to grow in racial diversity and mainstream culture continuing to challenge the traditional norms, can DEI truly remove the barriers of a constantly evolving society?

Some might answer this question by saying that it can. But, each organization’s culture and values will determine the progress that will be made.

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