The Rise of Tech’s Diversity and Inclusion Backlash

The responses to his tweet are split between the two factions that have appeared within venture in recent years: those who support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, and those who do not. Wealthy power players like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk have been very outspoken against the premise of DEI, with their thoughts shared and spread widely throughout the ecosystem. “DEI must DIE. DEI received a lot of support after the murder of George Floyd back in 2020, but support has waned these past few years. In a sense, they were right, and the decreased DEI support in business and tech has created ripple effects.

“Is it worth sharing my experience of being overlooked for a promotion because I’m a white man?” Shaun Maguire pondered in a recent tweet. Maguire, a partner at Sequoia Capital, sparked a heated debate online with his question.

The responses to Maguire’s tweet reveal a clear divide among the players in the venture world: those who support efforts for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and those who do not. Notable and wealthy figures like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk have been vocal in their opposition to DEI, their thoughts widely shared and debated within the ecosystem.

“DEI must DIE. The point was to end discrimination, not replace it with different discrimination,” Musk tweeted, adding in response to himself, “‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ are propaganda words for racism, sexism and other -isms. This is just as morally wrong as any other racism and sexism. Changing the target class doesn’t make it right!”

DEI is a framework aimed at creating more inclusive workplace practices to uplift marginalized communities. These initiatives include attracting a diverse pool of talent, unbiased hiring and promotion processes, and fostering positive work environments for all individuals to thrive. While DEI gained widespread support after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, that support has waned in recent years.

While DEI is meant to be an overarching effort that benefits all disenfranchised groups, it often ends up being targeted towards racial equity and leaves other marginalized groups behind. With the Supreme Court overturning affirmative action in education this year, industry leaders feared the progress made in the past two years would be dismissed. In a way, they were right, as the decrease in DEI support in business and tech has had ripple effects.

Neither Sequoia nor Maguire responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Veni Kunche, founder of Diversify Tech, shared that in 2020, she noticed a surge in companies reaching out to her organization, which connects diverse talent to job opportunities. However, by 2022, she saw a complete reversal in interest. “I was sincerely puzzled, as I hadn’t changed anything in my business model,” she said. “Then I started noticing some patterns.”

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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