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The Supreme Court Affirmative Action cases are sending reverberations through businesses and universities throughout the country. On October 31, the court spent almost 5 hours discussing whether Affirmative Action is constitutional. Changes are possible that dramatically impact diversity practices.
Regardless of the result of these cases, effects are going to be felt throughout higher learning institutions and businesses for years to come. Organizations seeking diversity need to be ready.
In January of this year (2022), the Supreme Court agreed to decide if admissions programs focused on cultivating racial diversity in the student population are lawful. Now, two cases are before the Supreme Court in Affirmative Action, the results of which are not expected until spring (2023).
If, as many experts and journalists expect, the Supreme Court rules that Affirmative Action practices must change, some predict a negative impact on racial diversity in higher education, with a knock-on effect on businesses and leadership positions throughout society.
The challengers (Students for Fair Admissions, an organization that has been legally challenging programs designed to build racial diversity in education for almost a decade) argue that eliminating these programs will have no impact on the diversity in student populations.
Since Affirmative Action and similar programs have been in action, diversity in university student bodies has increased. A report by the American Council on Education found that the number of undergraduate students of color rose from 29.6% in 1996 to 45.2% in 2016 .
Some are predicting that diversity will diminish if the Supreme Court restricts use of these programs. In 2006 The University of California and the University of Michigan were prohibited from implementing race-conscious admission policies. Both universities have since struggled to achieve their diversity targets - the University of Michigan citing a 44% decrease in its Black population between 2006 and 2021, even though the population of college-aged African Americans in Michigan increased . It is worth noting that the percentage of Native American students at the University of Michigan has fallen by 90%, a minority that has little coverage during Affirmative Action discussions .)
Harvard has argued that ceasing to take race into consideration will cause enrollment of African American students to drop 8%, from 14% to 6%, and Hispanic enrollment from 14% to 9% . With the Black population of the US population standing at this would cause the proportion of Black students to fall well below the percentage of Black Americans .
The University of North Carolina, the other school targeted by these legal proceedings, was historically segregated – not admitting its first Black student until 1951. The challengers argue that UNC has made little effort to consider race-neutral policies. It’s worth noting that UNC has faced challenges historically in increasing its minority populations, and enrollment of Black men fell below 100 students (out of a class of 4,300) in 2013 .
Corporations seeking diversity can do so via their pipeline programs, which will remain unchanged, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision. We’ve seen the power of pipeline programs in encouraging and supporting minority students.
The medical field is perhaps one of the best examples here, as many schools across the healthcare sector help minority students reach the highest levels in their chosen careers. A study of 3 summer diversity pipeline programs found that 73% of students went on to enter a doctoral or master’s program .
In the corporate world, it’s no surprise that the most diverse companies are also those with programs for students. FedEx was one of Forbes’ Best Employers for Diversity in 2019 and has a Student Ambassador program working with 8 Historically Black schools . Similarly, Lincoln Financial Group has created 2 programs with Historically Black schools, and 29 of the 400 students that have participated have gone on to accept internships or full-time jobs there .
With all the talk of talent shortages, it seems like there’s no better time to implement a pipeline program. Corporations and organizations seeking diversity can make a real impact on people’s lives and the percentage of minorities in the workforce by identifying talented people early and offering them the opportunity to learn and grow with them.
Many companies have already adopted these practices. Pinterest set an annual public hiring goal in 2015 to increase diversity and launched programs to recruit students from underrepresented backgrounds. In 2015, they reported employing 49% White, 43% Asian, 1% Black, 2% Hispanic or Latinx, 3% mixed race, and 1% other . In 2021, their programs increased Black employees to 7% and Latinx employees to 6% .
Things look bleak for Affirmative Action and similar programs affecting admission to selective colleges and universities, but corporations have the power to increase diversity in their company and support minority groups by creating pipeline programs that give talented people the opportunity to advance.
Not all programs have to be job shadowing or apprenticeships, by adopting a hybrid model of learning, you can increase your capacity and the number of candidates in your pipeline. Amesite makes managing learning seamless, enabling you to deliver an outstanding learning experience – including diversity programs – to anyone, and build awareness of the opportunities you offer. To learn more, click here.