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November 09, 2023

DEI Programs in a Post-Affirmative Action Era

I was at a breakfast with Heads of University Recruiting and Talent Acquisition a few weeks ago. One of the main topics discussed was the Affirmative Action decision. Or, more specifically, how recruiting leaders should be thinking about their DEI programs in light of the decision.

The largest consensus: The SCOTUS decision does not prevent recruiting leaders from operationalizing DEI strategies, working to diversify their workforces, and building more inclusive systems.

The more interesting question discussed was how should leaders change their programs (if at all) in light of the decision. Though not a comprehensive or definitive list, I thought I’d share the three actions largely agreed upon by present leaders.

(1) Reconsider Program Naming

The most structural intervention considered by many was to reconsider including identity markers in the official name of any program they run. That does not preclude program tailoring. But, it builds additional openness into the categorical framing.

(2) “Not Limited To”

Second, explicit inclusion of language to make clear the program may be tailored to a specific group, but is not limited to that group, can hedge risk.

(3) Legal Consultation

Finally, a clear and obvious step, leaders are universally consulting their legal teams on program naming, format, advertising…etc.


It is worth noting that no one present had plans to draw back on their DEI efforts. Rather, they were focused on thoughtful reconsideration of certain program nuances in light of the recent decision.

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