Get ready to get brave.
Clearly folks are coming for DEI.
As Maya Angelou taught Oprah Winfrey, "When people tell you who they are, believe them the first time."
Conservatives like Christopher Rufo and Bill Ackman aren’t even trying to hide their intentions. To quote Rufo, “My primary objective is to eliminate the DEI bureaucracy in every institution in America.”
Last week, Rufo, Ackman, and others met their goal of ousting Harvard’s first Black president when she resigned under pressure over plagiarism accusations. They and other critics implied that she was unqualified for the position—in over her head. That somehow her “failure” proved that using “diversity” as a hiring criteria would result in disaster.
The connection to anti-DEI arguments wasn’t coincidental. Taking down Professor Gay was part of the same campaign that Rufo organized against “CRT” last year.
So those of us who are dedicated to what DEI actually means—a level playing field, so that everyone has an opportunity to fulfill their potential—should be ready for that battle.
If you’ve started your DEI efforts, don’t stop.
As intimidating as the efforts of the anti-DEI crusaders can be, this is not the time to be timid or hold back.
If you are a leader in an organization, you want the best that every employee has to give. DEI is a set of strategies to make that possible.
Here are a few things to remember as you get ready to face challenges to DEI in 2024:
Ground yourself in your values. You believe that everyone has something to offer, and everyone deserves respect and dignity. You believe in fairness and honesty. These are the foundations of DEI, and they needn’t be controversial. Speak from the heart about why these matter to you.
Data is on your side. Critics cherry-pick research about mandatory diversity training and try to discredit the field. But there is much more evidence of the value of diversity in organizations, the importance of engaged employees who feel like they belong, and the damaging impact of unconscious biases on opportunities and culture in organizations. Pursuing DEI is pursuing organizational success.
It’s popular. Employees want to work for organizations with purpose. They want to bring their full selves and know that their ideas and backgrounds will be valued. And they’re prepared to leave organizations that don’t walk the walk.
So set your DEI goals for 2024, create a plan—and be ready to lead in the face of opposition.
Because your leadership is crucial. The public narrative around DEI may have changed since 2020, but the need remains. And your role as a leader is more important now than ever.
The bottom line: People are the greatest asset to any organization, and DEI is all about people.
Stand up for your people. Stand up for DEI.