The Troubling Erosion of DEI Efforts in the United States is a wake-up call for Europe

By Jens Rottbøll, Partner & Chief Consultant at Living Institute

Coming home from working in the US, I was struck by two things.

Coming home from working in the US, I was struck by two things. 1) First the amazing will to work with the toolbox of DEI and at the same time 2) the reluctance to use the DEI language. These two conflicting observations gave me a profound idea of the existing and maybe increasing polarization in our field.

In recent times, the United States has witnessed a concerning wave of bans and resentment towards diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. I witnessed this first-hand facilitating leadership training for American companies.

Words we normally use as consultants working in this field, such as diversity, inclusion, equity, and DEI tend to be avoided. Repercussions of this backlash are spilling over into Denmark.

A recent decision by a prominent Danish company, to withdraw support for the LGBTQ+ community is a disheartening example of the worrisome trend that must be addressed.

The Threats from Across the Atlantic

Across the pond from us in Europe, the US has become a battleground for DEI. Bans on critical race theory, diversity training, and inclusive programs have stifled progress and fueled resentment. Organizations, colleges, and even entire states have succumbed to the pressure, compromising their commitment to nurturing a diverse and inclusive society.

The consequences are dire, as marginalized communities face further exclusion and discrimination. 

The Importance of DEI

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not mere buzzwords. They are essential pillars of a just and prosperous society. Embracing diversity allows for the exchange of ideas, nurtures innovation, and promotes a more inclusive workplace.

By prioritizing equity, we can rectify historical injustices and create opportunities for marginalized communities. Inclusion ensures that every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives.

The Consequences of Retreating

When companies backtrack on their commitment to DEI, the repercussions extend far beyond their own walls. It sends a dangerous signal to other organizations, creating a chilling effect on the advancement of diversity and inclusion. 

Standing Together

The erosion of these efforts threatens the fabric of our societies, both in the US and the rest of the world. It is imperative for organizations, government bodies, and individuals to reject the pressures of the anti-DEI movement and to stand up for inclusivity, equity, and respect.

We must actively support and advocate for marginalized communities, ensuring that their voices are heard, and their rights are protected.

At the very same time, my deepest respect for passionate people and companies, who, in the middle of this polarization, keep fighting to harvest the benefits of DEI with all possible means. 

Try to be in their shoes for a day to understand the power, the sensitivity, and the courage it takes to keep working with DEI.

Jens Rottbøll