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Yet another corporate fad passes

Companies are removing the ineffective, polarizing position of chief diversity officer


A store in Frankfurt, Germany, displays the logo of the Apple company in rainbow colors. Associated Press/Photo by Michael Probst

Yet another corporate fad passes
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It was the coolest job title around circa 2020—chief diversity officer. But what does it mean? And can a vaguely defined job with no real markers of success survive in a cut-throat business world throttled by rising prices and intense market pressures?

The answer appears to be “no,” as the position of “CDO” incurs 40 percent higher turnover than other human resources jobs and saw a 75 percent dip in the number of searches in the past year, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

With affirmative action in college admissions overturned by the Supreme Court, people may feel bolder in opposing race-based decision-making in universities and beyond. 

We saw it coming. Last year, The New York Times surveyed a diverse group of college students and was stunned to discover that just one supported affirmative action. The public mirrors this group, with only 32 percent of those surveyed saying it is “very important” to them to be employed at a diverse workplace. 

This isn’t really new information, but progressive media and global political powers have tried to hide it. As Jason Riley reported in City Journal, polling from the last few decades has always showcased negative public opinion on race-based decision-making. In 1977, the majority of Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and Asians were against special treatment. Similar numbers appeared in 1997 and again, in even higher numbers, in a 2001 Washington Post survey. In 2019, the numbers remained unusually high across all races against colleges “consider[ing] race in admissions.” 

If this many people opposed affirmative action in universities, it’s logical to conclude that similar majorities wouldn’t like it in the workplace either. However, corporations and universities are accountable to other parties, like entities that push & punish based on left-wing ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) initiatives. In this case, companies are evaluated on criteria like “diversity and inclusion” efforts, rather than profit or returns, and can be penalized for not adhering to them. This is one reason we saw the uptick in diversity efforts in the past few years, but the outcome isn’t worth the effort. 

According to Indeed.com, a CDO’s main job is to “establish consistent inclusion initiatives” and “ensure the company follows equal employment, affirmative action, and other regulations.” 

But they have little hope of surviving when jobs are created in response to social movements and not market needs. There was a more than 25 percent increase in S&P 500 companies creating a CDO role after the death of George Floyd, which sparked a nationwide uprising against what many called systematic racism. But to what end were these jobs created?

When it comes to raw dollars and cents, extraneous positions harmful to a company’s bottom line are first to go.

“Inclusion initiatives” are based on elusive social goals, so their economic performance is a second or third priority. The failed “inclusion” marketing campaigns of brands like Target and Bud Light exemplify why the role of CDO is dying. 

Companies like these can undoubtedly choose to pursue any kind of initiatives they want, but at the end of the day, the market decides their fate. Target lost $9 billion after their aggressive push for transgender children’s items during the first week of Pride Month, and Bud Light lost $27 billion after partnering with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney. 

In another example, Disney CDO Latondra Newton is out after leading the park to end “gendered language” and promoting progressive ideas within movies, leading to a nearly $900 million dollar loss in revenue. 

When it comes to raw dollars and cents, extraneous positions harmful to a company’s bottom line are first to go. After Newton’s exit from Disney, a wave of diversity heads from Netflix, Warner Brothers, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences left. 

When USA Today chooses a biological male as a “woman of the year,” political leaders grant interviews only to people of one color, and “inclusion” means allowing men to compete in female athletics, it’s no wonder people are more skeptical than ever of what “diversity and inclusion” actually means. 

Furthermore, Harvard Business Review found that “diversity programs” have made little progress since they began, their studies revealing that most are merely designed to “preempt lawsuits by policing managers thoughts and actions” and may actually exacerbate bias due to increased focus on race, gender, ethnicity, or sexuality. 

At the end of the day, the position of CDO and other diversity-focused titles is an unnatural fit within a free-market economy or a free people. As Christians, we know God is not partial to any individual based on immutable characteristics, and the Bible consistently commands us against unequal treatment or twisting justice toward the rich, poor, or any other category of people. 

The coolest job title in 2020 was (predictably) a sign of the times. And no matter how great a trend is, it always passes, especially when it may reinforce the very thing the roles are designed to protect against in the first place.


Ericka Andersen

Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer and mother of two living in Indianapolis. She is the author of Leaving Cloud 9 and Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church & the Church Needs Women. Ericka hosts the Worth Your Time podcast. She has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Christianity Today, USA Today, and more.


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