Almost as soon as the news broke that a cargo ship lost power and hit a bridge in Baltimore, conspiracy theorists took to social media to blame the accident on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. While some making the claim are merely internet trolls, the sentiment was also shared by a former member of Congress and a gubernatorial candidate. Before Baltimore’s Key Bridge collapsed, a critical safety incident on a Boeing plane was also blamed on DEI, a charge championed by billionaire Elon Musk, who has called DEI “another word for racism.” Perhaps this attitude explains why his electric vehicle company was recently ordered to pay a former employee $3.2 million in a racial discrimination lawsuit.

If the people with influence making these claims had a better understanding of the value of DEI, they would see it as an insurance policy against workplace discrimination claims and the strain they put on productivity and profitability. It’s a no-brainer to think that employees will be more engaged in a workplace where they feel valued and treated fairly.

The value of DEI to leaders was clearly demonstrated in the wake of the October 7, 2023, attack by Hamas on Israel. When Israel responded with force, the world reacted. U.S. college campuses, in particular, became a symbol for pro-Palestinian sentiment, and several university leaders were summoned to testify before Congress about campus protests. Under this scrutiny, DEI opponents cynically linked diversity programs to antisemitism and attacks on DEI proliferated, providing new fuel for those who had already mounted a concerted effort to sink these policies long before the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Many companies felt pressure from internal and external stakeholders to comment on the Hamas attack and its aftermath. Knowing what to say about complex and emotionally charged global events is uncomfortable territory, especially as sympathies toward both sides in the conflict shift — particularly among younger generations, hence the congressional focus on college campuses.

Navigating this uncharted territory creates a crucial test for leadership that requires a thoughtful and strategic approach.

Change is the only reliable constant, and smart leaders will invest in planning for change sooner rather than later. Effective leaders take necessary steps to control their destiny, and investing in DEI is one way to future-proof an organization.

Read the full article about the benefits of DEI by Elizabeth Curwen at Triple Pundit.