The Week (US)

Who does the DEI industry really help?


Bridget Read

If you work in an office, chances are you’ve taken a diversity-related training course in the past year, said Bridget Read. After the murder of George Floyd last May, diversity consultant­s who had been jobless days earlier were receiving calls from CEOs “looking to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars publicly and fast.” Since then the “amorphous industry of diversity consulting” has exploded. Practition­ers of DEI, which stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion, may generally share a worldview that “workplaces can become more humane and just.” However, they are also “rivals in a for-profit industry,” with the same incentives as marketers and salespeopl­e. A

popular trend at Fortune 500 companies is requiring employees to take “unconsciou­s-bias training,” a generalize­d lesson in how bias can affect behavior. Many long-time DEI practition­ers don’t offer it, because “they suspect it doesn’t really work.” But it’s profitable for those who do. Some firms have stretched into new lines of business. One consultant pitches psychedeli­cs to CEOs as an easier way to “open their minds to accelerate­d change.” There is now DEI.AI, which reads emails for sensitivit­y, and DEI virtual reality. As more money pours in, “the products and services for sale are becoming ever more abstracted away from actual workers in pain.”

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