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2024 could be a do-or-die question for corporate diversity efforts. Here’s why.

This time last year, major companies had begun to backtrack on their efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion within their ranks, also known as DEI. Experts feared that energy around the work, which had swelled after the 2020 killing of George Floyd, would wane.

Since then, things have become even more complicated. In June, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in higher education, sparking opposition to DEI. Dozens of bills targeting DEI initiatives at public colleges are pending across the country, and there has been an increase in litigation alleging that the methods private companies use to combat inequality amount to discrimination .

Although there is no clear consensus on how the court’s decision will affect the business world, Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind Tesla, SpaceX and other tech companies, tweeted this month that “DEI must die”. He added: “The aim was to end discrimination, not replace it with further discrimination. (Musk did not respond to requests for comment.)

Neal Katyal, a business lawyer who served in the Obama administration, said lawsuits targeting diversity efforts aim to “push the law to prohibit affirmative action, even though the court has said no such thing.” “. Katyal represents Hello Alice, a free online platform that helps businesses start and grow, in a lawsuit seeking to block its grant program for black-owned small businesses.

Growing resistance is leading some companies to reframe their policies, while others are scrapping their programs to avoid legal issues. Experts say the debate around DEI is likely to intensify as the legal battle plays out in court and political tensions rise in the run-up to the presidential election.

Here’s what you need to know and what changes could happen in 2024.

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