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Is DEI Dead?

From Blueprint365.org

Not another nickel.

That’s what Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said University of Wisconsin System employees would get, unless UW cut diversity, equity and inclusion out of its budget. Over the summer, Vos led the Republican-controlled Assembly to cut $32 million out of the University of Wisconsin System’s budget – the same amount it spends on DEI salaries and programming. Governor Tony Evers vetoed that change. After a UW-Madison administrator told the student government that no DEI positions would be cut, despite the political pressure to do so, Vos went after the workers, threatening to cut their scheduled four percent cost-of-living raises if UW didn’t comply. On Tuesday, Vos made good on that promise. The Joint Committee on Employment Relations eliminated the promised six percent cost of living increases over the next two years for all UW System, about half of the state’s workforce. While Vos said he was open to restoring the raises if UW submitted to legislative approval for any new positions, the message is clear: Vos wants DEI defunded. Now. At the national level, the Supreme Court surprised no one by undermining a key component in diversity in higher education, ruling that colleges and universities are not allowed to consider race as a factor in admission decisions. While not directly related to DEI in the workplace, that ruling is another bullet point on the list of anti-diversity measures in recent months. Meanwhile, in the private sector, it’s not so much open hostility as fatigue and attrition. A recent report from LinkedIn found that chief diversity officer hiring – placing diversity at the highest level of executive leadership – rose 168 percent between 2019 and 2021, but declined by almost five percent in 2022. That could just be a natural leveling off after the sharp increase, or it could be a signal of a longer-term downturn. Despite the hostility, workers continue to value diversity. A Pew Foundation survey found that 56 percent of workers in companies with 10 or more employees think an intentional focus on diversity at work is a good thing. And that’s higher among the upcoming generation – among workers 18 to 29, it’s 68 percent. Further, 62 percent of all workers say it’s important to have a workforce made up of people of different races and ethnicities. We spoke with a number of people doing DEI in the day-to-day about how they’re seeing things at this moment, a moment that feels like an inflection point. Most said the work remains important and they’re undaunted, but the way they talk about the work might need to change. Read our full report here.