Layoffs in the Tech Sector: Impacts on DEI

Layoffs are ravishing the technology industry, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) roles are suffering the most. A recent study conducted by Revelio Labs in collaboration with The Washington Post and Reuters found that the loss of DEI roles has outpaced the loss of non-DEI roles by a rate of 21-33% at more than 600 companies that have laid off employees since 2020.

In some cases, diversity and inclusion departments are being gutted. Amazon and Nike have let go between 5 to 16 DEI professionals each, while Twitter has laid off 28 people. The Twitter DEI team of 30 now consists of 2. Layoffs tend to take a “last in, first out” approach, meaning that the newly created diversity departments are first in line to be released. The decision to take this specific approach also speaks to each organization’s true commitment to diversity or lack thereof. If this is an example of putting their money where their mouth is, they are not betting on diversity to carry them forward.

The loss of DEI roles also directly correlates to stalled efforts to increase overall diversity, including roles in upper management and the C-suite, which many corporations pledged to do in the wake of nationwide protests after the murder of George Floyd.

“In the three months after George Floyd’s murder, DEI job postings jumped 123%”, according to data from jobs site Indeed.

Now, just as tech companies have started to progress, they’re scaling back those teams before fully meeting goals or creating workforces that look like the broader U.S. population. Meta Chief Diversity Officer Maxine Williams warned last fall that “cost-cutting would slow its diversity hiring efforts,” wrote Kelsey Butler of the Seattle Times.

Roles for DEI professionals are not only disappearing from corporate structures but also the potential for a decreased presence of already underrepresented groups across the workforce.

“Women and Latino workers represent 46.64% and 11.49%, respectively, of the tech layoffs from September to December 2022, while those segments make up 39.09% and 9.96%, respectively, of the entire industry,” Revelio reported.

These mass layoffs that drastically impact diversity paint the picture that establishing and maintaining a diverse workforce is nonessential. So, what does the path forward look like? There is still a chance for the remaining DEI team members and leaders to effect change, but the organization must prioritize diversity and equity. Hiring, developing, and retaining diverse talent across each department within the organization can be accomplished even during periods of economic downturn. The workforce can be rightsized with diversity, equity, and inclusion in mind.