Diversity, equity, and inclusion

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (usually abbreviated DEI) refers to organizational frameworks that seeks to promote "the fair treatment and full participation of all people", particularly groups "who have historically been underrepresented or subject to discrimination" on the basis of identity or disability.[1] These three notions (diversity, equity and inclusion) together represent "three closely linked values" which organizations seek to institutionalize through DEI frameworks.[2] Some frameworks, primarily in Britain, substitute the notion of "equity" with equality: equality, diversity, inclusion (EDI).[3][4][5] Other variations include diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB),[6][7][8] justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI or EDIJ),[9][10] or diversity, equity, inclusion and access (IDEA or DEAI).[11][12][13]

Diversity refers to the presence of variety within the organizational workforce, such as in identity (i.e. gender, culture, ethnicity, religion, disability, etc.), age or opinion.[2][14] Equity refers to concepts of fairness and justice, such as fair compensation.[14] More specifically, equity usually also includes a focus on societal disparities and allocating resources and "decision making authority to groups that have historically been disadvantaged",[15] and taking "into consideration a person’s unique circumstances, adjusting treatment accordingly so that the end result is equal."[2] Finally, inclusion refers to creating an organizational culture that creates an experience where "all employees feel their voices will be heard",[2] and a sense of belonging and integration.[14][16]

DEI is most often used to describe certain "training" efforts, such as diversity training. Though DEI is best known as a form of corporate training, it also finds implementation within many types of organizations, such as within academia, schools, and medical spaces.[17][18]

In recent years, DEI efforts and policies have generated criticism, some directed at the specific effectiveness of its tools (such as diversity training), its effect on free speech and academic freedom, as well as more broadly attracting criticism on political or philosophical grounds.


While it was estimated in 2003 that corporations in the United States spent $8 billion annually on diversity, after the election of Donald Trump and the ascent of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, Time Magazine stated that the DEI industry had "exploded" in size.[19] In 2021 New York magazine stated "the business became astronomically larger than ever" after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.[6] The Economist has also stated that surveys of international companies indicate that the amount of people hired for jobs with "diversity" or "inclusion" in the title more than quadrupled since 2010.[20] Within academia, a 2019 survey conducted by INSIGHT Into Diversity found that spending on DEI efforts had increased 27 percent over the five preceding academic years.[21]

One 2020 estimate placed the size of the global Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) market at $7.5 Billion, of which $3.4 Billion was in the United States, projecting it to reach $17.2 Billion by 2027.[22] DEI is more common than D&I, and represents many different methodologies.[6]

Methods and arguments[edit]

According to proponents of DEI, because businesses and corporations exist within a larger world, they cannot be completely separated from the issues that exist in society. Therefore they argue the need for DEI to improve coworker relations and teamwork.[23] Through a DEI plan, organizations outline measures to be taken, including recruiting and retaining personnel, fostering effective communication channels, imparting relevant training, and regulating workplace conduct.[24]

Many of the academic institutions have also started making commitments to DEI in different ways, including creating documents, programs and appointing dedicated staff members especially in the US.[25][26] Many accreditation agencies now require supporting DEI.[27][28] Information on DEI for both students and professors is now widespread in colleges and universities, with many schools requiring training and meetings on the topic. Many scholarships and opportunities at universities even have a secondary purpose of encouraging diversity. Diversity in higher education can be difficult, with diverse students often feeling reduced to fulfilling a ‘diversity quota,’ which can carry a high emotional tax.[29] Research is being done to determine the current standpoint of diversity in universities, what is and is not effective, and how DEI practices can be applied in higher education.[30] DEI positions can also exist with the goal of creating "allies" for students through resources and staff training, in order to support students facing social disparities.[31][32]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

Diversity training[edit]

Diversity training, a common tool used in DEI efforts, has repeatedly come under criticism as being ineffective or even counterproductive.[33][20][34][35] The Economist has stated that "the consensus now emerging among academics is that many anti-discrimination policies have no effect. What is worse, they often backfire",[20] with several critics alleging its mostly used to protect against litigation.[20][36] A 2007 study of 829 companies over 31 years showed "no positive effects in the average workplace" from diversity training, while the effect was negative where it was mandatory.[36] According to Harvard University professor in sociology and diversity researcher Frank Dobbin, "[o]n average, the typical all-hands-on-deck, 'everybody has to have diversity training' – that typical format in big companies doesn't have any positive effects on any historically underrepresented groups like black men or women, Hispanic men or women, Asian-American men or women or white women."[34]

Mandatory diversity statements[edit]

The use of mandatory "diversity statements" within academia, wherein an applicant or faculty member outlines their "past contributions" and plans "for advancing diversity equity and inclusion" if hired, has become controversial and sparked criticism.[37] The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has called such practices an attack on academic freedom, stating that "[v]ague or ideologically motivated DEI statement policies can too easily function as litmus tests for adherence to prevailing ideological views on DEI" and "penalize faculty for holding dissenting opinions on matters of public concern".[38] According to a 2022 survey conducted by the American Association of University Professors, one in five American colleges and universities include DEI criteria in tenure standards, including 45.6 percent of institutions with more than 5000 students.[39] The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) has called for the end of required diversity statements, stating it "encourages cynicism and dishonesty" and erases "the distinction between academic expertise and ideological conformity".[40] Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who resigned from the SPSP in protest against mandatory diversity statements, has stated that "most academic work has nothing to do with diversity, so these mandatory statements force many academics to betray their quasi-fiduciary duty to the truth by spinning, twisting, or otherwise inventing some tenuous connection to diversity".[41] Other criticisms include that it "devalues merit", is connected to affirmative action, that it violates the First Amendment, or function as loyalty oaths.[37][42][43]

A 1500 person survey conducted by FIRE reported that the issue is highly polarizing for faculty members, with half saying their view more closely aligns with the description of diversity statements as "a justifiable requirement for a job at a university", while the other half saw it as "an ideological litmus test that violates academic freedom".[44]

Several U.S. states have implemented legislation to ban mandatory diversity statements.[44]

Equity versus equality[edit]

According to DEI frameworks, "equity is different than equality in that equality implies treating everyone as if their experiences are exactly the same."[45][46] A common identification, especially among critics, is of equality as meaning "equality of opportunities" and equity as "equality of outcome".[47][48] Some have criticized this focus on equity rather than equality, arguing that the former runs contrary to a focus on merit or non-discrimination. Political scientist Charles Lipson has called "equity" a "mandate to discriminate", threatening the principle of "equality under the law",[49] while Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, a frequent critic of DEI, has called equity "the most egregious, self-righteous, historically-ignorant and dangerous" of the three titular notions of DEI.[50] The debate has also branched into the realm of politics. Commenting on Governor of Texas Gregory Abbott calling DEI initiatives "illegal", a spokesperson for his office stated "[t]he issue is not diversity — the issue is that equity is not equality. Here in Texas, we give people a chance to advance based on talent and merit".[14]

Chilling effect on free speech[edit]

In recent years, several high-profile incidents of campus conflict has lead to a wider debate on the effect of DEI on campus environment, academic freedom and free speech.[51][52][53] The canceling of a guest lecture by astrophysicist Dorian Abbot, after his criticism of DEI programs, lead to media attention.[54][55] A 2023 heckling incident involving Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kyle Duncan at Stanford Law School sparked considerable criticism and discussion in the media, with many focusing on the role played by Stanford's DEI dean.[56][57][58] In the wake of the incident, Wall Street Journal published an editorial claiming DEI "offices become weapons to intimidate and limit speech",[59] while the dean responded to the criticism by emphasizing that DEI and free speech were not mutually exclusive.[60]

Political backlash[edit]

In the 2020s, DEI came into the spotlight in American politics. Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, and Governor of Texas Gregory Abbott, have both emerged as prominent political critics of DEI.[14][61] Several U.S. states are considering or have passed legislation targeting DEI in public institutions. One example is Texas, which passed a bill with a rider banning the use of state funds for DEI programs in universities and colleges,[62] while a similar bill to ban spending on DEI in public universities has been advanced in Iowa.[63] Critics have called these moves a threat to academic independence and freedom.[64] In response to growing political oppposition, the Chronicle of Higher Education has created an "DEI Legislation Tracker", which per March 2023 lists 26 proposed bills in 15 states.[65]

See also[edit]


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