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Things are heating up in DEI. There are signs of progress

By Janet Crenshaw Smith

Anti-DEI messaging is on the rise. The rhetoric is heating up, tying diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to “reverse discrimination,” affirmative action, lower standards, being anti-American, and other negative things. But for those of you who care about your careers, companies, communities, nation, and the world, do not despair.

This is actually a good sign!

We have the benefit of 33 years in the DEI space, and there is a cyclical, almost predictable, nature to these conversations. When things heat up like this, it indicates one important thing: We are making progress.

Whether you are on the front lines as a DEI practitioner, in the center of transformation, process and policy improvements as an HR, supply chain, or customer-centric professional, or you’re driving your own career success by fighting inequities and successfully running a maze full of unwritten rules … keep your head up. Positive changes are taking place.

There is so much working to your advantage. For instance, demographic changes and younger generations’ expectations ensure there is no turning back, and the majority of workers and consumers support DEI. Even better? They have learned how to push back in substantive ways.

Consider last year’s return to office “mandate” for example. When the workplace said, “Hell no, we won’t go,” corporate leaders retreated to their boardrooms surprised, stunned, and nearly speechless, thinking: “What do we do now that they say no?” In response, they are negotiating hybrid solutions that work for the workforce, workplace, and for the business.

That’s where we're heading with DEI — A firm realization that it is exceptionally good for business. We are making progress, but resistors are pushing back because they are afraid. Do not dismay. Do this:

  • Communicate more clearly and more consistently: DEI - what it is, what it is not, and why it matters

  1. Include people at all levels in your work: Identify clear benefits, roles, and responsibilities

  • Celebrate the wins: Document and share the ROI

  1. Collaborate with others who will keep you motivated and prepared to lead DEI transformation. Join our NEXTGEN CDO Institute to learn how to do this work better.

When the anti-DEI haters act up, just smile. Remain steadfast. Take the challenge as a reminder that you are getting the right things done.


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