The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action calls for significant changes in college admissions processes. While the ruling is narrowly focused on higher education, many organizations fear it will complicate, if not impede efforts to diversify the workplace.

It is against this background that the Page community recently met for a conversation on DE&I in a post-Affirmative Action world. Former chair of Page and current chair of Diversity Action Alliance Charlene Wheeless moderated the call, which was joined by Rochelle Ford, president of Dillard University, and Juan Suarez, vice president of DE&I at Southwest Airlines.

Below are some of the key considerations members discussed during the call.

  • Now is the time to double down on building equitable, diverse talent pipelines.

Despite the ruling, there are still a plethora of institutions with incredibly diverse student bodies. It is more important than ever to “fish where the fish are.” That is, if there are underrepresented groups in your employee population, you should consider working with institutions serving those communities to build talent pipelines for your organization.

  • As of now, the ruling does not impact the private non-higher education sector — but there may be cases that challenge DE&I programs in the future.

Corporate employers fall under a different set of regulation from academic institutions, so the ruling doesn’t directly impact them yet. DE&I programs for private employers must be in compliance with Title VII of the Equal Right Act; DE&I is not about meeting a quota or selecting someone because of a protected status, but is about changing practices and policies to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. 

  • Your employees are a crucial asset in understanding your own DE&I shortcomings.

To understand how you can improve your workforces’ inclusivity, you need to understand where your organization is falling short. Having regular surveys and other engagement metrics can help you set the baseline, and from there, make intentional, actionable changes in your organization’s practices and policies.

  • DE&I is still good business

The pushback against DE&I — and ESG, at large — is a sign of the ongoing polarization in society. That does not detract from the fact that it is good business. Airlines looking to diversify their pilot force are not “going woke”, they are reacting to the fact that there is a severe labor shortage in their industry, and that shortage is leading to disrupted service. Additionally, having a diverse workforce leads to more creative ideation and, ultimately, better business results. DE&I, when done right, is good business — no matter what disgruntled outsiders may think.