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What Will the Class of 2024 DEI Reports Look Like?

Published on December 22, 2023

Diversity has become increasingly litigated and politically charged.

The Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling on affirmative action at Harvard and the University of North Carolina has given rise to new workplace diversity challenges. In 2024, DEI marketing professionals will face the question of whether to mount a robust defense of workforce recruitment and retention best practices or downplay their importance.

Labor law allows hiring and promotion policies or practices that are job-related and necessary to the operation of the business, and companies must report workforce demographics to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Under federal EEO-1 reporting requirements, companies must maintain data on the number of individuals they employ by job category, by sex and by race or ethnicity. The EEOC uses the data to monitor employment discrimination in private industry and publish its workforce demographics reports. 

The higher education case did not affect workplace civil rights regulation. The Supreme Court decision notably carved out military academies, which voiced concerns about force cohesion and readiness that mirror business DEI strategies. Nevertheless, lawsuits have forced Amazon, Comcast and other companies to defend their diversity programs, while state legislatures are debating the laws and rules around environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations in investment decisions. 

Marketing and investor relations professionals still have the opportunity to present their EEO-1 compliance in a positive light. Our 2023 review found 154 published diversity reports from Fortune 500 companies that showcase their efforts to build a resilient and innovative workforce. Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway was an outlier among top U.S. companies; shareholders rejected a proxy proposal to publish a DEI annual report.

In 2024, more DEI marketing efforts may pull back to their roots in EEOC compliance. Some marketing professionals may be tempted to take a lower profile to demonstrate DEI progress, making their case in a career website, impact report, proxy statement or annual report sidebar. In doing so, however, companies will pass up opportunities to brand themselves as inclusive, empathetic and responsive to their customers and communities.

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