Tech giants including Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta and Google have slashed their funding of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in 2023 by up to 90 percent as the tech sector faces a tightening budget under the Biden economy.
After George Floyd died in 2020, Google CEO Sundar Pichai promised “to build sustainable equity for Google’s Black+ community, and externally, to make our products and programs helpful in the moments that matter most to Black users:”
Google’s vocal commitments included improving representation of underrepresented groups in leadership by 30% by 2025; more than doubling the number of Black workers at nonsenior levels by 2025; addressing representation issues in hiring, retention and promotions; and establishing better support for the mental and physical health for Black employees.
The move was part of a broader trend in the wake of the Floyd killing, which sparked societal unrest and drew attention to the power imbalances in corporate America and the tech industry specifically. Corporations pledged to invest millions of dollars to improve diversity in their ranks and support external groups doing work on diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI.
Now, facing a slowing economy, jobs in the tech industry relating to diversity and equity have declined 44 percent compared to last year.
This serves as a stark contrast from 2020 to 2021, where job postings in DEI ballooned by roughly 30 percent.
Naturally, Google and Meta have let go of employees and downsized programs under their DEI umbrella.
Melinda Briana Epler, founder of Empovia, which advises companies about improving a culture of “equality,” said that DEI programs are often the first victim.
“Whenever there is an economic downturn in tech, some of the first budgets that are cut are in DEI, but I don’t think we’ve seen such stark contrast as this year,” she explained.
Devika Brij, CEO of Brij the Gap Consulting, which helps tech companies their DEI schemes, said, “When George Floyd began to become the topic of conversations, companies and executives doubled down on their commitments and here we are only a couple years later, and folks are looking for opportunities to cut those teams.”
Brij said many of her clients have had their DEI budgets cut by 90 percent by the middle of this year.
Despite the cuts, Meta and Google maintain that they are focused on improving DEI at their companies.
“Our commitment to DEI remains at the center of who we are as a company. We continue to intentionally design equitable and fair practices to drive progress across our people, product, policy and partnerships pillars,” a Meta spokesperson said to CNBC.
″Our workforce reductions and company-wide efforts to sharpen our focus span the breadth of our business. To be absolutely clear, our commitment to that work has not changed and we invested in many new programs and partnerships this year,” a Google spokesperson said.