Posted on February 28, 2023

Diversity Roles Disappear 3 Years After George Floyd’s Murder Inspired Them

Curtis Bunn, NBC News, February 27, 2023

Diversity, equity and inclusion leaders, who were hired in waves to help companies achieve an ethnically balanced workforce after George Floyd’s murder in 2020, are being phased out, surveys indicate, leaving experts in the field concerned that corporations’ talk of affecting change was just empty words.

DEI roles increased by 55% following demands for broader racial equity and justice after Floyd’s murder, the Society for Human Resource Management reported in 2020. But instead of creating fair opportunities and a comfortable work culture for Black employees, a pair of recent reports indicate, DEI professionals are losing their jobs, as layoffs across the economy have gained momentum.

The attrition rate for DEI roles was 33% at the end of 2022, compared to 21% for non-DEI roles. Amazon, Applebees and Twitter lead the way with DEI layoffs since July 2022, according to Revelio Labs, a New York-based company that uses data to analyze workforce dynamics and trends.

Another survey showed that Black employees represent only 3.8% of chief diversity officers overall, with white people making up 76.1% of the roles. Those of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity make up 7.8% and those of Asian ethnicity make up 7.7%


DEI professional Nika White, author of the book, “Inclusion Uncomplicated,” said the studies also reveal “the harsh reality” of many companies’ commitments to diversity. “This is very disheartening, especially after so many of us were hopeful after George Floyd’s murder that organization leaders would be sensitized and committed to equity and inclusion.”

But the opposite has happened. Revelio Labs’ 2023 report on the state of DEI and the impact of last year’s layoffs, found that DEI-focused roles “experienced a nearly 40% churn rate at companies engaged in layoffs, as compared to about 24% for non-DEI roles.”

The stunning absence of Black people in chief diversity officer roles in companies makes DEI professionals cringe.


Together, the studies mean something more to Chris Metzler, senior vice president, corporate DEI and environmental, social and governance strategies at the National Urban League. The influx of DEI officer hires in 2020, he said, was disingenuous and the positions have largely been weakened to the point of being toothless.

“Most of your diversity professionals at these companies report to human resources, which are headed by white women and in some cases, white men,” he said. “So, it doesn’t surprise me that Black diversity officers . . . are being moved out. {snip}”


Metzler insists the focus should shift from DEI to environmental, social and governance strategy, which has three pillars: how a company’s practices impact the environment; the social consequences of a company’s performance; and governance over an organization’s decisions and ramifications of those decisions.

“ESG is the way forward,” he said. “We’re still in that old, affirmative action, equal employment opportunity definition of diversity, which is part of the reason why we’re not moving in any significant way.”