Affirmative action and hiring: How the Supreme Court ruling affects corporate recruiting

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3 mins, 6 secs read time

On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court made a historic ruling overturning affirmative action in U.S. colleges and universities. The 6-3 decision ended a decades-long precedent that "allowed colleges and universities to ... consider applicants' race in their admissions processes," said the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Our Chief People Officer, Donald Knight, joined the founder and CEO of MH Worklife, Blessing Adesiyan, for a recent LinkedIn Live session to discuss the push and pull between the recent ruling of affirmative action and hiring in the workplace.

How are higher-ed institutions leveraging affirmative action to increase diverse representation?

Affirmative action was a set of policies that sought to increase opportunities for historically excluded people. But with the Supreme Court's ruling, colleges and universities no longer have that responsibility – they can use the, "We can't find underrepresented people anywhere" excuse to exclude marginalized students.

Higher-ed institutions will no longer have to put effort toward recruiting diverse students. Recruiting at universities that reverse affirmative action policies will look the same as decades before: selecting students from a majority group.

Some colleges have fought back, stating that they'll maintain the diverse representation they've established at their school.

It can be disheartening to see those who have benefited from affirmative action, like Justice Clarence Thomas, overturn affirmative action. But it's also your chance to widen the scope of opportunity for marginalized groups and show organizations that may be lost how to build a diverse and inclusive environment.

How will this ruling affect organizations’ commitment to DEI&B?

So how are affirmative action and hiring related? Many companies are questioning how the ruling will impact DEI&B in the workplace and what they should do. Blessing offered a few suggestions:

  1. Ask yourself what your company DNA is. What do you want your company to be known for?
  2. Connect with DEI&B leaders. What does your organization truly believe about DEI&B? Do you think everyone deserves access to a good job and a better life? Be active in your DEI&B work.
  3. Think about the future workforce. Gen Z – the newest generation in the workplace – has demanded more diverse, equitable environments. They'll look at your true DNA before deciding to work with you.

Where should organizations start with measuring their DEI&B impact?

Want to foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment but don't know how to measure it? Blessing recommends listening to your employees and customers.

  • What's important to your employees and customers?
  • What do you believe about hiring and equal representation?
  • Where do you stand with your employees mirroring customers?

A few other things Donald recommends:

  • Look at the employee net promoter score (eNPS) of different demographics to see where to make adjustments
  • Look at your recruiting data to see where you can create equity
  • Remember, it's never too late to build an environment of inclusion

How can I move forward with DEI&B?

This ruling has rolled back progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, but there are actions we can take to focus our efforts and ensure a fully inclusive workplace:

  1. Be unafraid to get loud about what you want in your organization, especially about diversity
  2. Showcase your unique value
  3. Fight for DEI&B today so future generations don't have to

The Supreme Court may have reversed gains, but history has shown that progress comes with struggle.

Meaningful progress always has headwinds. -Donald Knight

The Civil War and the suffragette movement faced challenges, yet both prevailed. Headwinds are an indicator that meaningful progress is on the other side.

A ruling does not define how you run your business.

Want to build or maintain an inclusive work environment that embraces diversity? Read our blog to find out how.

Sheena Fronk

Sheena Fronk

is a writing-obsessed entrepreneur who founded her all things writing passion project turned small business, wanderluster co. She works with SaaS and tech companies, transforming jargon into conversations using human-centered copy. When not working, Sheena eats doughnuts, plays with her pup and travels the world.

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