The Supreme Court’s affirmative action decisions and the current divisive political landscape have perpetuated skepticism about corporate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (“DEI”) efforts, and undoubtedly have made corporate DEI programming challenging. Corporate counsel should not allow these developments to derail DEI efforts. Instead, corporate counsel should take this opportunity to reinvigorate their companies’ commitments to DEI, in order to create workable and legally defensible programs that achieve robust representation and workforce success.
Corporate counsel are well positioned to play a key role in focusing their companies on the case for DEI, whether premised on fundamental fairness, correcting for historical underrepresentation, or aligning with the shareholder goal of profitability. To do so effectively, they should approach DEI with a view to expanding and not restricting the workforce pipeline. In fact, an effective DEI program should always begin with the message that such programs create new, expansive, and more representative pipelines to the ultimate growth asset: talented people who achieve the corporate mission. Corporate counsel can take a few key steps to help their clients achieve a more diverse and inclusive workforce.