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| 1 minute read

What impact will the US Supreme Court Affirmative Action decision have on corporate DEI programmes?

I have been wresting with whether I should post something about this decision, being conscious not to comment or stray in to anything that has a political dimension.  However, in this instance, the possible ramifications are potentially wide ranging and I felt that it warranted comment.

In summary, the US Supreme Court has ruled that race can no longer be considered as a factor in university admissions.  Affirmative action first made its way into policy in the 1960s, and has been defended as a measure to increase diversity and has been utilised by universities to increase representation in university admissions.  So this is clearly a contentious decision and over the last couple of weeks there has been much debate about it.

In Josh Bersin's latest podcast, he asserts that whilst this decision is related to only university admissions, it will likely impact corporates in terms of how they move forward with affirmative action. He believes that political pressure will be applied to organisations to roll back diversity programmes because they are viewed as being unfair.  

In the UK, positive action is deemed to be an acceptable practice as long as it doesn't discriminate against any protected characteristic.  The RAF has just concluded an inquiry into it's own recruitment processes after claims that white male applicants were being discriminated against in the RAF's efforts to increase women and ethnicity representation.  

So, the issue of affirmative action / positive action is clearly topical!

From a US perspective, I hope that we don't see corporates moving away from affirmative action to support the recruitment, progression and development of under-represented talent in organisations. We are all aware of the benefits (financial, moral and societal) that businesses derive from having diverse workforces.   Time will tell!

I would love to hear what others feel about these developments, please share your thoughts with me.

Microsoft, Salesforce, and other Fortune 500 companies react to Supreme Court striking down affirmative action: ‘Our commitment to equality doesn’t waver’


diversity equity inclusion, early careers and campus