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Affirmative inaction

7 July, 2023

Last week, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action programs in higher education, meaning that colleges and universities cannot consider race in the admissions process.

The importance of this ruling cannot be understated, and it will undoubtedly impact minority students at selective colleges and University across the country. Beyond this, the ruling has potentially huge knock-on effects on diversity and inclusion in the corporate world; as a recent article in the New York Times emphasises – if you haven’t already made the connection for how this will impact businesses – wake up.

The idea behind affirmative action is simple: create rules and regulations that require institutions to proactively pursue equity – affectively attempting to level the very uneven playing field. To date, organisations have benefitted enormously from the affirmative actions implemented in higher education; these initiatives help in creating a diverse pool of talented potential candidates, and in-turn have a positive impact on the productivity and success of businesses.

This ruling means that businesses are no longer going to be able to just sit back and wait for the candidate pool to fill itself – a more proactive approach is desperately needed. But the good news is there are plenty of ways that corporates can do so – from providing direct funding to colleges to equip them with the resources needed to support students, funding community organisations which focus on developing underprivileged children’s development and readiness for higher education, to funding the college admission process itself.

82 US employers, including some of the world’s largest companies such as Google, Meta, Apple among others submitted amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in support of race-conscious policies in college admissions. We will wait with anticipation to see if the corporate world steps up to support diversity in higher education as the US government is failing to do so.

By Budd Nicholson

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