DEI teams hit by tech layoffs as data shows leaders fail to champion diversity

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) teams are being cut as tech leaders commit to massive layoffs.

Twitter’s layoffs are a dramatic example in which the DEI team has been reduced from 30 to just two people this year according to Bloomberg.

The business news site also reports that many DEI departments are not being set goals or having recruitment frozen altogether with responsibilities being shared between other staff.

And, according to Textio data, listings for DEI roles are also down 19% from last year.

This is a stark contrast from 2020 when, after George Floyd’s murder, when according to Indeed data DEI job postings rose by 123%.

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The latest Gartner data shows that part of the current problem for the DEI teams is that many business leaders do not understand the benefit of their agenda.

According to its study of 181 DEI leaders, over half (51%) say their biggest challenge is getting business leaders to take ownership of it.

This can undermine DEI initiatives as 70% of survey respondents said senior leaders are the most critical stakeholders to strategy in this area.

Idris Arshad, HR business partner at St Christopher’s Hospice said it is up to HR and diversity leaders to remind business leaders of the benefit of their agenda.

He told HR magazine: “DEI teams are the wrong teams to cut as this can have a serious impact on the business’s finances and reputation.

“The organisations cutting these teams probably don’t have enough knowledge of its importance in the first place.

“Sometimes HR can’t get around this attitude, but we can make noise about it by speaking to as senior a person as we can and presenting the evidence and stories within about where DEI is helping — as well as pulling in data from outside.”

But leadership buy-in is not the only issue: 29% of DEI leaders say not enough resource impedes progress.

Sheryl Miller, founder of workplace consultancy Reboot Global, said questions over the effectiveness of DEI initiatives and apathy towards them can also create a difficult operating environment where leaders struggle to see the value.

She told HR magazine: “The way to counter this is to double down on the business case. Why did they first start in the first place? What benefits has it delivered so far?

“The DEI team, with the leadership team, need to stand back and see whether the initiatives are inclusive and are having a measurable effect on engagement, wellbeing, progression, promotion or pay equity.”