Demands for corporate DEI expansion surge in the wake of SCOTUS affirmative action ruling

Fearing a potentially less ethnically diverse entry-level applicant pool, firms are exploring new ways to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Two NYU Law professors argue that 'it is more urgent than ever to shape institutions so that everyone — regardless of their identity and background — can belong.'

Following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling against affirmative action in college admissions, many firms are devising new ways to advance diversity. 

Amber Burton and Paolo Confino of Fortune recently highlighted Corporate America’s concerns about the potential struggle for diversity within the emerging “entry-level talent pool.” The fear of the court’s ruling stems from the expectation that elite colleges will have reduced minority representation, resulting in a less diverse selection of job applicants.

[RELATED: ‘You are hereby warned’: Legal group tells law schools to back off plans to circumvent SCOTUS affirmative action ruling]

“There is no getting around that if you don’t take race into consideration, the diverse composition of student bodies at prestigious schools will drop dramatically,” said Vanderbilt Law and Economics Professor Joni Hersch. “As long as firms are actively recruiting from the elite’ve just narrowed the pipeline.”

The Fortune authors also noted the ongoing research concerning “corporate diversity programs” in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling. Citing the work of Fortune’s own Trey Williams and Paige McGlauflin, Burton and Confino noted that states that have already eliminated affirmative action allegedly produced “workplaces [that] quickly became significantly less diverse—whiter, and more male.”

“Moving forward, HR leaders will have to get creative in sourcing and developing diverse talent pools,” Fortune stated. “Not only will recruiters need to cast a wider net of colleges and universities they recruit from, but they’ll need to be more intentional in providing training and opportunities for graduates from less connected schools where they might not have previously recruited.” 

According to Neeta Mehta of Bridge Partners, “In the short term, we will see companies who have been looking for a reason to stop, or reduce investment in, DEI efforts use this ruling as a signal/permission to end those programs.” Mehta also told Fortune that how a firm responds to the affirmative action decision will unveil its loyalty to upholding diversity.

[RELATED: NAACP calls on colleges to pledge ‘Diversity No Matter What’ following SCOTUS ruling]

Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Kenji Yoshino and David Glasgow of the NYU School of Law also called for corporations to continue advancing DEI.

“At a time of rapid demographic and social change, it is more urgent than ever to shape institutions so that everyone — regardless of their identity and background — can belong. That work remains essential and, crucially, legal, even under this activist Supreme Court,” they wrote.

“The court’s colorblind turn is, unfortunately, a symptom of a broader cultural backlash that has put advocates of diversity and inclusion increasingly in a defensive crouch,” the authors continued.

Yoshino and Glasgow argued that DEI initiatives are extremely vital for the betterment of the workplace and society at large, as pushback against such practices is merely the working of right-wing leaders and institutions.

“Three years ago, on the heels of a resurgent Black Lives Matter movement, organizations were clamoring to demonstrate their commitment to social justice. Now, under pressure from activists and politicians on the right, many organizations are watering down their diversity initiatives and using economic conditions to lay off the professionals who work on them.

“Given the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce for innovation, productivity, and employee engagement, such initiatives are not just an ideal, they’re a necessity for businesses in the 21st century,” they asserted. 

Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.