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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

If a Company Is “Diversity Ditching,” 82% of Workers Say It Decreases Their Productivity

Earlier this month, Variety reported a “mass exodus” of Black women leaving senior leadership positions in Hollywood, “with mounting concerns that major studios are only performing lip service after pledging to elevate more people of color to positions of influence.”

The list of departures includes Karen Horne, SVP of North America diversity equity and inclusion, and Terra Potts, EVP of worldwide marketing, at Warner Bros. Discovery; Jeanell English, EVP of impact and inclusion at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences; Vernā Myers, Netflix’s first head of inclusion; and LaTondra Newton, chief diversity officer and senior VP at Disney. And it’s not just happening in Hollywood. CNBC noted that Joanna Abeyie, the BBC’s creative diversity director, left after just 18 months in the role. “Her replacement will be the third creative diversity executive in two years at the BBC,” writer Jennifer Liu said.

Variety looked back to 2020, when the murder of George Floyd prompted many companies to declare wide-ranging commitments to diversifying their workforce—even adding diversity officers to the c-suite to spearhead internal progress. “Well, three years later, it’s starting to feel like they’re done ‘trying,’” writer Clayton Davis said.

The Muse calls this “diversity ditching,” where the senior leadership at a company fails to live up to previous commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion by not supporting BIPOC leaders in complex positions.

“Women and minorities are vastly underrepresented across Corporate America to begin with, so when these departures happen, it can make other employees feel disillusioned or like they don’t belong—unless the company takes action,” said Kathryn Minshew, CEO and Founder of The Muse. “It is up to employers to make all employees—but especially BIPOC employees who don’t always see themselves represented in positions of power—feel adequately resourced and supported to be able to do their best work.”

Inc. echoed this sentiment, and posited that DEI positions in particular are ripe for burnout, especially when colleagues don’t understand what they’re trying to do at the same time that leadership expects a quick turnaround on results. “This is not only leading to burnout, but is also causing early departures,” the article said, adding that chief diversity officers today have two fewer years of average tenure compared with other executives. “This translates to a cost to organizations—up to twice the DEI leader's salary to replace them—and jeopardizes progress in the DEI work itself.”

This made us wonder if the cost to organizations is actually more widespread than the Great Resignation of DEI leaders. What effect does this have on other employees—both in how they view their company, and in their willingness to work hard? The Muse surveyed more than 800 users of this month about the effects of diversity ditching, and the results are telling. Among other findings:

  • 80% said that their company's decision to pull back on its diversity commitments has made them more likely to look for a new job over the next 12 months.
  • 82% said that their company's decision to pull back on its diversity commitments has made them less engaged in their work.
  • 70% said that if they believed a company was pulling back on its diversity commitments, it would negatively affect their interest in working at that company.

Overall, 60% of respondents said they feel like their current company has pulled back on its diversity commitments. “Fewer diverse candidates being hired or recruited” was the most commonly cited example (32%), followed by “less internal discussion or DEI programming” (22%), “leadership change at the top/diversity officer left” (20%) and “reduction in public facing messaging” (18%).

More than a third of survey respondents agreed that their company talked a lot about DEI during the interview process, but the actual "on the job" experience does not live up to what was discussed.

It’s never too late for leaders to course correct as a response to diversity ditching. Acknowledging that it’s taking place within their organization is, perhaps, the first step in the right direction.

Methodology: 803 people surveyed via between July 21-24, 2023. Respondents were:

  • 30% Millennials and 23% Gen Z
  • 70% non-white and 22% Black or African American
  • 65% female