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Layoffs at Big Tech Affect Diversity and Inclusion

Massive layoffs in the technology sector hurt diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) departments, threatening company promises to boost underrepresented groups on their payrolls.

DEI job vacancies fell 19% last year, a larger decline than in human resources or legal departments, according to findings from Textio, which helps companies create unbiased job postings.

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Only software engineering and data science jobs saw higher drops, at 24% and 27%, respectively.

Bloomberg News identified DEI professionals who have lost their jobs in recent weeks at Amazon.com Inc., Meta Platforms Inc., Twitter Inc. and Redfin Corp. Many said they envision their responsibilities falling to former colleagues still at the company or at resource groups, who are often not compensated for that work.

An Amazon spokesperson said that priorities in terms of DEI have not changed and that the company remains committed to its goals. A Redfin spokesperson said the company has invested in growing its DEI team since 2021, and despite a recent layoff, the group is larger than it was at the start of 2022. A representative for Meta declined to comment.

“I’m a little worried, not that these roles will go to zero, but that there will be an increase in ‘Swiss Army Knife’ roles”, which means more DEI professionals will disperse as they take on additional job roles, said Kieran Snyder, CEO of Textio. The phenomenon is likely not limited to technology, as the layoffs affect other parts of the economy.

Declining job offers in all roles

In recent years there has been a boom in minority hiring. After the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, organizations of all stripes vowed to push for racial and gender diversity. Dozens brought their first directors of diversity and inclusion. In the three months after the murder of George Floyd, job postings for minorities increased 123%, according to data from the jobs site Indeed.

Now, just when tech companies have started to make headway, they are downsizing those teams before they fully meet targets or create workforces that resemble the general population of the United States. Maxine Williams, Meta’s director of diversity, warned last year that cutting costs would set back her diversity hiring efforts.

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“Cutting DEI-facing staff now, unless a lot of progress has been made and you can say ‘mission accomplished’ is not a good idea”said Angie Kamath, dean of NYU’s School of Professional Studies, which focuses on workforce development. “There are some real risks.”

In some cases, companies could even relapse, said Monne Williams, an Atlanta-based partner at McKinsey & Company.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion cannot be something that is only done when times are good”Williams said. “If it becomes commonplace, companies will lose talent.”

In part, the problem is that companies tend to lean on the “last in, first out” for layoffs, said Brooks Scott, founder and CEO of executive coaching firm Merging Path Coaching. “Businesses are rushing to think about the bottom line, but any time we try to optimize for speed, we are likely going to overlook diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Instead, he said companies should consider race, gender and ethnicity when deciding who to fire.

Source: Gestion


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