Blog Post

What’s Changed in Corporate America Since the Supreme Court Banned Affirmative Action – And What Hasn’t

By Diana Forster
May 15, 2024

Have your organization’s DEI efforts changed since the Supreme Court’s 2023 decision banning affirmative action in higher education? The ruling has had a chilling effect on many in corporate America, but new Seramount data shows the actual impact has been moderate, mostly affecting representational goals.

While awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA) v. President & Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard) and SFFA v. University of North Carolina (UNC), on June 26, 2023, Seramount conducted an Employee Voice Session (EVS) with Chief Diversity Officers and other DEI leaders to understand the effects of the pending ruling on corporate America.

While legal advisors indicate that the ruling has no direct impact on corporate America, the topic remains critical for our partners. Seramount conducted a second EVS on April 11, 2024, to examine what’s changed – and what hasn’t – since the ruling. We found that while many organizations have pulled away from setting numerical representation goals, Seramount’s partners believe their leadership remains committed to DEI.

1. The Decision Has Had a Moderate Impact on Corporate DEI Efforts

More than one-third (36 percent) of participants in our June 2023 EVS believed the forthcoming decision should have no impact on their DEI efforts. But in April 2024, that figure dropped to 16 percent. Despite assurances from legal advisors, most DEI leaders feel the decision has impacted their work.

2. Most Have Consulted with Counsel

Seventy-one percent of DEI leaders in our April 2024 EVS had consulted with their organization’s legal counsels to understand the decision’s impact, compared with only 45 percent in June 2023. About half (46 percent) have started an audit of their internal policies around recruiting, hiring, and promotions.

What steps have you taken since the SCOTUS decision was handed down? Select all that apply.

Source: Seramount EVS Data

3. Organizations Are Changing Representation Goals

Last year, Seramount’s partners were most concerned about maintaining their work around advancing employees from Historically Excluded Talent Groups. The ruling has clearly diminished the ability of American organizations to set goals for the representation of these groups. As the chart below shows, about one-third (32 percent) of participants in our 2024 EVS now write goals that reflect “aspirational statements” instead of specific numbers. Fourteen percent have eliminated representation goals altogether.

Have you made any changes in your representation goals? Select all that apply.

Source: Seramount EVS Data

4. DEI Teams Are Now at the Forefront of Programming Changes

Nearly three in four (72 percent) DEI leaders in our June 2024 EVS reported that their teams were initiating the changes they were making to their DEI work. Only about one in 10 (11 percent) reported that their changes were primarily initiated by senior leadership.

5. Most CDOs Believe Their Leadership Has Not Changed Their Support of DEI

Despite these changes to representational goals and other DEI work, the chart below shows that most CDOs (60 percent) believe their leadership team has not changed their support of DEI.

Has your leadership team changed their support of DEI training, policies, and practices at your company?

Source: Seramount EVS Data

Seramount’s Inclusion Index, which measures DEI efforts and outputs across industries in the U.S.,  revised its survey questions this year to account for the fear of legal changes that have resulted from the ruling. For more guidance around the affirmative action ruling, look out for Seramount’s forthcoming guide on the issue.

About the Author

Diana Forster
Director of Qualitative Research