Last quarter, the first earnings season since the Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action sent a chill through corporate boardrooms, U.S. executives sharply curtailed public discussions of workplace diversity.
Data compiled by Bloomberg show that the number of mentions of diversity, equity and inclusion in Russell 3000 companies’ earnings calls and meetings fell 54% in the third quarter from the same period last year to the lowest level since 2018. Since the court ruling, Republican lawmakers and conservative groups have publicly warned U.S. companies that their diversity efforts could come under scrutiny, although some legal experts have said workplace programs should not be affected.
“If I were advising a client in this environment right now, I would probably say, ‘Maybe say less, not more,'” attorney Akin Grump Strauss Hauer & Feld Esther Lander, an employment attorney and partner at Akin Grump Strauss Hauer & Feld, said in an interview. “Carefully review what you say so you don’t become a target.”
So far, the impact appears to be limited to rhetoric, as companies have yet to roll back their diversity initiatives. Instead, they may tone down or limit public statements while re-evaluating related projects and documents. Many companies responded similarly to anti-LGBTQ protests earlier this year.
“Why make yourself a target if you don’t have to be a target?” Rand said.