What does the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action in college admissions mean for your business?
Most organizations think about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the context of what they can control, such as what values drive their work, how they live those values, and how they communicate those values both internally and externally. However, it is important to also monitor public policy developments with the potential to impact an organization’s approach to DEI.
The recent Supreme Court ruling in SFFA v. Harvard concerning affirmative action in college admissions decisions is one such development. While the case applies only to educational institutions, it is natural to be concerned about its implications for the rest of the economy. Private employers should remember that their own affirmative action and DEI plans are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as Executive Order 11246.
Diversity Works encourages private employers to keep in mind that there are more politics than policy at play in many conversations about the future of affirmative action and efforts to create more diverse workforces. We believe investing in DEI is the right thing to do, but it is also a smart business decision as it creates more resilient, innovative, and productive workplaces. If you have concerns about your DEI efforts and legal exposure, ask your attorney or consult a labor law expert.
In the meantime, here are some things you can do to demonstrate your commitment to promoting diversity in the workplace:
- Articulate your business or mission case for DEI – how does a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce make you competitive and effective?
- Establish goals to address any imbalances in traditionally segregated job categories as defined by the EEOC.
- Clearly communicate the criteria used for hiring and advancement to both job seekers and employees – what factors are considered in evaluating their performance and qualifications?
- Revisit your organization’s vision and values, DEI commitment, and DEI goals – consider specifically articulating why affirmative action is important to you.
- If affirmative action is one of your core values, consider directing a portion of your philanthropic spending to community and nonprofit organizations working on equal employment opportunities.
- Revisit your supplier diversity goals – if you have already identified historically underrepresented groups as a priority, how well are you doing in directing spending to this demographic?
Intentionally diversifying your workforce is both legal and beneficial. Private employers play an important role in making sure the economy works for everyone and correcting the mistakes of the past. As economists will tell you, a more inclusive economy where everyone has an opportunity to participate is a bigger, more prosperous economy that creates more room to grow. We encourage you to look past the politics of the moment and continue making progress on your DEI goals.
About Elizabeth Curwen
Elizabeth is a managing partner at Diversity Works