KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Angela Poe Russell: DEI’s secret weapon is Generation Z

Mar 6, 2024, 6:43 AM | Updated: Mar 27, 2024, 1:53 pm

DEI...

(Photo: Getty file image)

(Photo: Getty file image)

Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) made headlines earlier this week after the University of Florida shut down its office in part of a broader anti-DEI movement.

DEI is definitely pushing some buttons these days and seems to be losing steam in the job market. According to employment website Indeed, DEI-related job postings in 2023 declined by 44% from the same time a year ago.

It could just be a temporary bump in the road as its future might have an unexpected ally — Generation Z.

Born in the late 90s through 2012, Gen Z’ers are generally between 11 and 26 years old. Here are some things you should know about them. They are on track to be the most educated of all generations – having higher high school graduation rates than previous generations. They are the most diverse generation to date. 48% are people of color.

And Gen Z grew up around monumental moments in U.S. history: The Sept. 11 attacks and the war that followed, the Great Recession that began in 2008 and a series of school shootings forcing them to prepare for the possibility.

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Then, towards the end of their youth, George Floyd’s death, a global pandemic, a serious mental health crisis and let’s not forget they have had social media from the start. All of these things together have made Gen Z more aware of social issues and they bring this to the workplace.

According to Pew Research, workers under 30 are the most likely age group to say focusing on DEI in the workplace is a good thing — approximately 68%. Many consider an employer’s commitment to DEI when deciding where to work. In a different poll conducted by Monster, 83% of Gen Zers felt companies must inquire about preferred gender pronouns.

Now, before you dismiss Gen Z as too idealistic or naïve, they may be on to something. For almost a decade, the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company has extensively studied diversity and its relationship to company performance. Through examining more than 1,200 companies in 23 countries, the research found businesses whose employees are more than 30% women financially outperform others by 18%. Those in the top range for ethnic diversity showed a 27% financial advantage.

I’d like to think that most people agree diversity is a good thing, regardless of it being good for business. But somehow along the way, an acronym became associated with lower standards or preferential treatment. DEI is not supposed to be discriminatory: In fact, it’s the opposite.

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  • DEI can ensure that jobs are posted in places where more people in a community can access the opportunity.
  • In schools, a DEI lens can examine curriculum for bias or create learning environments that work for students with different needs.
  • In medicine, studies show patients fare better when care is provided by diverse teams.

I don’t know if it’s too late to save DEI as we know it, but the idea still has life because, at its best, the goal is to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to obtain what this country offers. And a strong majority of Gen Z seems to not only get that, but will likely demand it.

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Angela Poe Russell: DEI’s secret weapon is Generation Z