Posted on March 6, 2024

Wall Street’s DEI Retreat Has Officially Begun

Max Abelson et al., Bloomberg, March 4, 2024

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has made a surprising change to its “Possibilities Summit” for Black college students: It’s opened the program to White students.

At Bank of America Corp., certain internal programs that used to focus on women and minorities have been broadened to include everyone.

And at Bank of New York Mellon Corp., executives are being urged to reconsider hard metrics for workforce diversity. Lose them, lawyers have advised.

This is what diversity, equity and inclusion looks like on Wall Street today: anxious, fraught – and changing fast.

From C-suites down, American finance is quietly reassessing its promises to level the playing field. The growing conservative assault on DEI, coupled with pockets of resentment among White employees, have executives moving to head off accusations of reverse discrimination. It’s not just Wall Street. In recent weeks, Zoom Video Communications Inc. cut its internal DEI team amid broader layoffs and Tesla Inc. removed language about minority workers from a regulatory filing.

The seemingly small changes — lawyerly tweaks, executives call them — are starting to add up to something big: the end of a watershed era for diversity in the US workplace, and the start of a new, uncertain one.


Recruitment programs aimed at women and minorities — a key tool for recruiting diverse talent — are being reworked. In-house affinity groups, specific workforce targets and even boardroom diversity initiatives are all up for review, executives, consultants and lawyers say.

It’s a remarkable turn. Less than four years ago, amid lofty talk of a “racial reckoning” and an “inflection point” in the wake of George Floyd’s 2020 murder, America’s CEOs were vowing to embrace inclusive hiring, promote minorities and narrow the gender pay gap.

Now, after the US Supreme Court rejected affirmative action at the nation’s colleges, the legal assault on corporate diversity initiatives is gathering steam. The right has villainized DEI from Disney World to Harvard University as an engine of left-wing indoctrination and the banks don’t want to become a target for lawsuits claiming reverse discrimination.


Bank of New York, for instance, is reconsidering its decision to tie executive compensation to progress on diversity, according to people familiar with the matter. The lender has also changed the language it uses to describe its diversity and inclusion initiatives in recent months, eliminating references to “specific targets” around diversity and inclusion.

Bank of America has tweaked some DEI programs and the way it talks about them, according to people familiar with the changes. The lender has considered ending some of its mentorship programs because they had achieved their goals and may no longer be needed, one of the people said.

JPMorgan’s summer fellowships for Black undergraduate sophomores is now open to all sophomore students “regardless of background.”

At Goldman Sachs, lawyers have advised senior executives to remove references to race and gender in college recruitment programs, according to people familiar with the matter. They’ve also warned against hosting exclusive events for specific groups, such as women and people of color.


One influential Wall Street banker said he’s observed that the sway executives in charge of diversity recruitment used to have with decision makers has diminished. Asking for anonymity to describe the recent changes, he said that colleagues who’d been willing in recent years to be open to diverse recruitment are reverting back to the way they were before Floyd’s murder.

US corporations are certainly changing the way they speak about diversity initiatives. Citizens Financial Group Inc.’s latest annual regulatory filing no longer refers to a goal of having women and people of color make up at least 50% of the candidates for mid- and senior-level roles, Bloomberg News reported last week. The revision was among more than a dozen diversity-related edits in annual filings at large US companies this year.