Executives say they’re still committed to DEI, new survey finds

Employers are being confronted with numerous legal and workplace complexities in managing inclusion, equity and diversity (IE&D) programs, from the repercussions of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions to roll back affirmative action college admissions policies to new anti-IE&D state laws to mounting calls to take a stance on social issues. To gauge how employers are responding to what has become a critically important — and increasingly embattled — workplace issue, Littler surveyed more than 300 C-suite executives located across the United States, including Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Chief Legal Officers (CLOs) and Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs).

Representing a diverse range of industries and company sizes, the survey results provide a snapshot into employers’ IE&D commitments and initiatives, as well as the outlook for the year ahead. The findings reveal that employers remain committed to IE&D, with most (57%) even growing their efforts over the past year, despite the fact that nearly the same proportion (59%) say that backlash has increased since the Supreme Court’s decisions on affirmative action in June 2023. In fact, the decisions have had minimal material impact on the C-suite executives surveyed, 91% of whom say the court’s opinions have not lessened their prioritization of IE&D. Among the 6% who decreased their IE&D related efforts since 2022, concerns surrounding general legal liability and cost were the primary factors, rather than the court’s rulings.

Yet there remains room for growth. Organizations have largely steered clear of more legally complex IE&D initiatives — like diversity-based incentives for executives — opting instead for such triedand-true steps as providing professional development opportunities, training and educational resources. Notably, however, our survey revealed sharp differences in perspectives between CLOs and CDOs, suggesting that their IE&D-related goals may clash. Responses from CEOs indicate that their perspectives often fall in between their C-suite colleagues. The lack of alignment in the C-suite could pose new challenges for organizations in communicating and acting on their IE&D-related positions and values.

Nearly three-quarters of executives (73%) are facing some degree of challenge around managing divisive social and political beliefs among employees — creating a renewed need to find a balance in addressing sociopolitical issues amid heightened expectations from various stakeholders.

For the full survey methodology and a breakdown of respondent demographics, see page 12

Download survey here>>

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