By Gary J. Nix
- Major corporations including Disney and Netflix part ways with their Black women DEI leaders
- 18% of women leaders left a company in the previous two years because they felt their employer didn’t adequately prioritize DEI efforts
We saw the writing on the wall at the beginning of the Chief Diversity Officer boom; however, a concept known as “Diversity Fatigue,” the feelings of exhaustion, isolation and frustration around driving more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces, is now prevailing. Arguably this has led to the loss of four major DEI leaders. Disney’s (DIS +0.74%) chief diversity officer and senior vice president Latondra Newton, Netflix’s (NFLX +0.87%) head of inclusion strategy, Vernā Myers, Warner Bros. Discovery Discovery’s (WBD -1.05%) SVP of diversity, equity and inclusion, Karen Horne, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ EVP of Impact and Inclusion, Jeanell English, all either left or were laid off from their positions.
Why This Matters: While we may not know all of the details, it is important to note that 18% of women leaders left a company in the previous two years because they felt their employer didn’t adequately prioritize DEI efforts. It is data like this that leaves more questions than answers to corporate promises about improving representation and equity for the Black community.
Historically speaking and especially after the murder of George Floyd, Black consumers have had varied trust in how the companies selling goods and services value their $1.7 trillion dollars in spending power, and their humanity. The cycle of tragedy catalyzing words of concern and ideas of doing better for the community is dizzying and this time is no different. When Black consumers ask for support and action from these companies, who do have the power to affect change (i.e.: the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Montgomery Bus Line), all too often we are met with flowery words, nebulous promises, and the occasional co-opting of a separate social media program with the assumed intent of showing a form of solidarity.
In addition, even before the pandemic, the role of Chief Diversity Officer while sounding like a major step in the right direction was often, in practice, a poorly supported, toothless encounter with little to no power or decision-making capabilities; a kick in the teeth to someone in the C-suite. C-suite hirings between 2019 and 2022 found that despite a 168.9% growth in hires for Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers overall in the past four years, the role experienced a 4.5% decline in hires last year, according to Bloomberg.
Although some progress was made in assigning more responsibility and authority to the role, diversity, equity, and inclusion were not viewed as elements to reconcile what has gone wrong to fix relationships. DEI roles were more like an aqueous attempt to garner goodwill that does not affect the bottom line.
Here’s the thing though, if businesses invested more time and respect into the audiences they want to reach, namely Gen Z, the direct correlation is crystal clear. More than half of Gen Z (56%) wants to buy from companies who align with their social values, and since they are the most diverse and most concerned with belonging, alienating the wishes of more than half of any desired audience is a terrible business strategy.
Situational Awareness: An important key to consider is that the erosion of federal protections for marginalized and underrepresented communities does not have to dictate what actions your business takes and what access you provide for those fully capable of helping your business grow. Business success and sustainability is contingent upon critical thinking and sound practices. If you know the influence of a community or culture helps your business scale, it is corporate negligence to not acknowledge, respect, and include them in everything you do. Earning trust for your brand is always a good thing through showing support for diverse communities. Words and actions will prove to be a business advantage, especially in times like these when other companies are putting one foot in the proverbial grave whether they know it or not.
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