Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives are Offensive and Reproduce Inequality

Diversity and inclusion initiatives are offensive and reproduce inequality
Article originally published on LinkedIn

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives are offensive and reproduce inequality. First, the logic of corporate D&I initiatives is incompatible with reality, human nature and historical precedent.

D&I Initiatives are Offensive

I’m consistently baffled. I cannot understand why we continue to hope and truly believe that the people who benefit from our exclusion will take meaningful steps to acquiesce their positions of power. Particularly since the law isn’t incentive for corporations to comply with relevant Constitutional amendments and anti-employment discrimination statutes.

Law Review

  • The Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment prohibits states from denying any person equal protection under the law. For those who need a reminder, the 14th amendment:

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. 

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin (including membership in a Native American tribe). To be clear, and as explicitly stated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):

Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

The law forbids discrimination in every aspect of employment.

The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit an employer or other covered entity from using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), or national origin, or on an individual with a disability or class of individuals with disabilities, if the policies or practices at issue are not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business. The laws enforced by EEOC also prohibit an employer from using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative impact on applicants or employees age 40 or older, if the policies or practices at issue are not based on a reasonable factor other than age.

Gender Pay Gap Violates Federal Law

The gender pay gap violates federal law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits pay discrimination. This information is also publicly available on the EEOC’s website:

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee in the payment of wages or employee benefits on the bases of race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Employee benefits include sick and vacation leave, insurance, access to overtime as well as overtime pay, and retirement programs. For example, an employer many not pay Hispanic workers less than African-American workers because of their national origin, and men and women in the same workplace must be given equal pay for equal work.

D&I Initiatives Reproduce Inequality

D&I initiatives, mired in the very structures where dominant culture protects institutions that protect the status quo power structure, reproduce inequality. Here are some more facts to chew on.

  • Corporations spend millions (sometimes billions) of dollars annually to support organizational units charged with trolling the social media accounts of women and minorities who are paid hush money after employment discrimination occurs. The reason corporations hire people to troll social media accounts is to make sure discrimination victims stay silent and don’t share the abuses online. It is for this reason corporations make hush money payments in bi-weekly installments.

The same institutions participate in PWC’s CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, an initiative whereby corporate leaders pledge to check their bias, speak up for others and show up for all. According to the CEO Action website:

Our goal is to rally the business community together to take measureable action in advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Companies recognize that signing the pledge is the first of many important steps toward meaningful change. Contributing to and learning from the database of diversity and inclusion actions is another. With businesses anchored in almost every community across America, we have the opportunity—and responsibility—to play a meaningful role in such an important societal issue.

To suggest the goal is to take measurable action in advancing D&I when CEO’s who participate oversee departments that spend millions of dollars annually to support organizational units charged with trolling women and minorities who are paid hush money after employment discrimination occurs is obscene.

Gender Pay Gap, Racial Disparities Attributable to Institutional Actions

  • Corporations work with political nonprofits and government to advocate for corporate interests and undermine the rights of women and minorities.

Before I go further, it’s useful to understand my employment history. I’m a public affairs and administration professional. I know from: (a) tracking and analyzing legislative proposals across state legislatures — and drafting legislation for use by state legislatures (b) working for and in partnership with nonprofit interest groups (c) working for and in partnership with government and the courts and (d) as a previous member of a corporate Political Action Committee (PAC), that the gender pay gap and racial/ethnic disparities in employment are attributable to the actions taken by government (in partnership with corporate and nonprofit interests).

What does this Mean?

In short, the First Amendment allows interest groups to petition the government (lobby) for a redress of grievances. And the First Amendment considers corporate speech free speech. Take ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), for example.

The following is directly from ALEC’s website, quoted at length because of the insight it provides.

The American Legislative Exchange Council is America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism. Comprised of nearly one-quarter of the country’s state legislators and stakeholders from across the policy spectrum, ALEC members represent more than 60 million Americans and provide jobs to more than 30 million people in the United States. 

All Americans deserve an efficient, effective and accountable government that puts the people in control. ALEC provides a forum for experts to discuss business and economic issues facing the states. The ALEC model policy library is home to dynamic and innovative ideas that reduce the cost of everyday life and ensure economic freedom. ALEC ideas and publications are the product of countless hours of research, debate and discussion and serve as a toolkit for anyone who wants to increase the effectiveness and reduce the size, reach and cost of government. ALEC is proud to offer real solutions to the top issues facing the states, and the strength of the ALEC family is proof that good ideas are better when shared.

By joining ALEC, state legislators gain the competitive advantage of shared knowledge and experience, as they are able to learn from one another about what policies have succeeded or failed in the states. Similarly, business leaders and policy experts are able to discuss the real-world implications of potential policies with state legislators who best know their communities and economic landscapes.

To translate,

  • ALEC is a Conservative leaning interest group.
  • ALEC is a nonprofit association made up of government officials and corporations.
  • ALEC provides a way for government officials and corporations to collaborate and make sure government action aligns with stakeholder values *provides solutions* (in terms of legislation and regulation).

Meaning, ALEC, corporations and elected officials work together to make sure legislative (law) proposals such as gender pay equality and anti-discrimination/harassment measures don’t become law (among other things). While this may be off-putting to some people, this is how our systems and processes of government work. This information is easy to access (start with the links provided). It is important for people to take initiative and learn how decisions are made. Decisions that impact the realities people face every day. It is also important to learn how to read legislative proposals in their relative context. Tip: Consider the source. 

Note: If you want to go a step further and learn where you can find how legislators vote on given issues, leave a comment. It is public (free) information. 

  • study published by The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveals “that since the beginning of 2000, large corporations are known to have paid $2.7 billion in penalties, including $2 billion in 234 private lawsuits” for discrimination and harassment damages (lawsuits). 

Note: we need to move on from trying to persuade corporations to abide by the law (otherwise referred to as D&I) using the ” D&I increases bottom-line” argument. Clearly, this approach is insufficient in mitigating gender pay disparities, discrimination and harassment that occurs across industries. Also, corporations aren’t hurting financially. They are doing quite well, so… 

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives are Offensive and Reproduce Inequality

Gender pay disparities, blatant discrimination and the lack of racial and ethnic inclusion across institutions are violations of employment law. That we are supposed to believe the people who benefit from our exclusion are taking meaningful steps to acquiesce their positions of power is laughable. Especially in consideration of what we know. Moreover, if corporate narratives about commitments to D&I were in fact true, the billions of dollars corporations pay yearly — to silence and compensate women and minorities after employment violations occur — wouldn’t be warranted.

Request for Comments

Help me understand, given D&I initiatives are corporate public relations strategies to avoid the appearance of bias, why is it so many of us participate in and feed into the D&I folly?

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OLIVIA P. WALKER IS A PUBLIC AFFAIRS STRATEGIST. SHE LAUNCHED O.W.B PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND CREATES ALL SITE CONTENT. PRIOR TO THESE ROLES, OLIVIA SERVED AS GOVERNANCE CONSULTANT FOR THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR PHARMACEUTICAL ENGINEERING. BEFORE THAT, SHE SERVED AS GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC POLICY ANALYST FOR WELLCARE HEALTH PLANS, A FORTUNE 500 HEALTH INSURER.

Photo of Olivia P. Walker, MPA
Olivia P. Walker

OLIVIA IS A GRADUATE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS. SHE GRADUATED FROM THE MASTER OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION (MPA) PROGRAM AT THE TOP OF HER CLASS. OLIVIA WAS DULY INITIATED INTO PI ALPHA ALPHA, THE GLOBAL HONOR SOCIETY FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND ADMINISTRATION IN NOVEMBER 2016. SHE ALSO HOLDS A GRADUATE CERTIFICATE IN GLOBALIZATION STUDIES. THE CERTIFICATE IS A SPECIALIZED GRADUATE-LEVEL CREDENTIAL REFLECTING KNOWLEDGE OF THE MOST UP-TO-DATE RESEARCH ON GLOBALIZATION. OLIVIA IS A MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND A MEMBER OF THE ASPA SECTION ON PUBLIC LAW AND ADMINISTRATION.

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you… Don’t hesitate to let me know if I’ve omitted any relevant material. Thanks again.

  2. Hi Julie — thank you for your comment. Indeed, appealing to people in power to equalize things” is a losing proposition,”Well put! Thanks again for taking the time to read the article.

  3. These observations make a lot of sense.

    Considering human nature, appealing to people in power to equalize things seems like a losing proposition.

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