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of social programs, reg ulations, and legislation, Johnson
sought to provide equal educational and economic
opportunities to minorities. It worked for a while:
People of color got access to educations and jobs that
were previously denied to them.
Twenty years later, Newkirk reports, conservative
politicians, with the support of President Ronald
Reagan, began attacking the Great Society as an
“entitlement” that the richest nation in the world could
no longer afford. They cut program funding and
gnawed away at regulations and legislation under the
guise of correcting “reverse discrimination.” The progress by minorities stalled.
(Only recently, a decade after additional setbacks in the Great Recession, have
some small gains resumed.)
Meanwhile, the corporate demand for diversity and inclusion (D&I) is
booming, according to Newkirk. In 2003, an MIT professor estimated that
companies were spending US$8 billion annually on diversity efforts. In March
2018, a job site reported that postings for D&I positions had risen 35 percent in
the previous two years. In 2019, 234
of the companies in the S&P 500 had
diversity professionals — 63 percent of
whom had been appointed or promoted
to their roles in the previous three years.
Universities such as Tufts, Cornell, and
Georgetown are offering certificate and
degree programs in D&I, even as minorities are significantly underrepresented
on their faculties. In 2014 and 2015, Google spent $264 million on its diversity
programs; yet, in 2019, black employees made up only 3.3 percent of the company’s
workforce and 2.6 percent of its leadership. And so on.
The convoluted raft of facts that Newkirk constructs to indict the D&I
industry in the final chapter of Diversity, Inc. barely floats, but she is right. A stroll
down the corridors of power in corporate America is all the proof we need: The
denizens are slightly more diverse now than in the early 1980s, but they are
The denizens of corporate
America are nowhere
near as diverse as the
customers they serve.