A big topic among diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practitioners has been around how to use metrics to implement appropriate programs and policies to move DEI goals forward. While companies focus on metrics to bring guidance and accountability to their DEI goals, their complexity is becoming more apparent.
The questions at the DEI forefront include how to use metrics to put policies in place that will achieve a more diverse and equitable outcome. In the legal profession, it’s no secret that people of color face challenges in making inroads in the predominantly White world of Big Law, and are scarce at the partnership level. Plans to address this may include putting programs and policies in place to focus on highlighting, empowering, and growing the representation of lawyers from underrepresented racial groups, however issues can arise when these programs or policies are driven by quotas.
One organization explored the option of setting requirements to address the lack of Black representation in its outside counsel, and they ultimately decided to rethink this approach. Coca-Cola dropped its diversity policy for race-based staffing requirements for law firms working for the company.
This comes after a California diversity statute faced scrutiny and was eventually ruled unconstitutional. A California Superior Court Judge invalidated one of the state’s board diversity statutes that required publicly traded companies based in California to have board members from underrepresented communities. The statute was found to violate the state’s constitution because it mandated quotas and violated its equal protection clause.
DEI programs and policies that use metrics can face roadblocks, even with the best intentions. Metrics are meant to help provide direction and hold companies accountability for progress, however, when they are driven by quotas, may raise more objections than buy-in. The challenge with setting diversity quotas to enforce diversity in homogenous groups is that it risks violating the very laws put in place to root out discrimination. One of our many checklists available to members – “Creating Metrics for Tracking DEI Progress” – can help you tackle this challenging area.