Affirmative action, a term coined in the United States during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, refers to policies and practices aimed at increasing opportunities for historically marginalized groups, particularly racial and ethnic minorities. These policies have been implemented in various sectors, including education, employment, and government contracting, with the goal of redressing past discrimination and promoting diversity and inclusion.
Over the years, affirmative action has faced opposition and legal challenges. Most recently, the Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina, claiming that their race-based admissions programs were unfair and unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of SFFA, stating that race-conscious admissions programs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision, issued on June 29, 2023, effectively struck down affirmative action in college admissions.
What this means for employers
While the Supreme Court decisions apply exclusively to college admissions, its effects extend into the workplace. In light of the recent ruling, organizations may be re-evaluating their existing diversity practices and how to most effectively drive diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
This marks an opportunity to reflect and develop new strategies to foster diverse and inclusive workplaces. Some practices to consider include:
- Diverse slate hiring: Implement diverse slate hiring practices, which involve ensuring the initial group of candidates identified for interviews includes qualified people from diverse backgrounds. This ensures candidates from underrepresented groups are considered and given an equal opportunity to compete for positions.
- Diverse recruitment channels: Use a variety of recruitment channels to help diversify your pool of candidates. Partner with organizations that focus on diversity, such as minority professional organizations, women’s organizations, and LGBTQ+ organizations. Consider increasing recruitment at institutions such as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs). Attend diversity-focused job fairs and post job listings on multiple job boards to reach a wider range of candidates.
- Reduce bias in the interview process: Use structured interviews with standardized questions to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly and consistently. Consider using diverse interview panels to reduce bias, and train interviewers to recognize and mitigate unconscious bias in the interview process.
- Internship and apprenticeship programs: Partner with educational institutions, nonprofits, or community organizations to offer internships or apprenticeships, focusing on underrepresented groups.
- Mentorship and sponsorship programs: Establish programs to support the career development of underrepresented employees. These programs can help employees build valuable skills, expand their networks, and advance in their careers.
- Promote from within: Create clear pathways for advancement within the company, ensuring that underrepresented groups have equal opportunities for promotion.
- Employee resource groups (ERGs): Support employee-led groups that focus on specific demographics or interests, such as race, gender, or LGBTQ+ identity. ERGs can provide support, networking opportunities, and a sense of community for employees.
- Diversity goals and metrics: Set specific diversity goals and regularly measure and report on progress. This can include tracking the diversity of new hires, promotions, and overall company demographics. These metrics can help hold companies accountable for their diversity efforts and ensure that they are making progress toward their goals.
The decision highlights the importance of diversity efforts now more than ever, as well as the need for leaders to continue innovating, building upon, and pushing forward corporate DEI strategy.
Arbor enables leaders to easily capture, analyze, and benchmark DEI outcomes. Through integrations into existing HR and applicant tracking systems, Arbor’s dashboard helps employers easily visualize workforce and hiring trends to ensure fair practices. Beyond talent analytics, Arbor enables leaders to compliantly capture employee-disclosed demographic data through self-ID surveys, benchmark outcomes against industry averages, and easily export into reports for shareholders.