Amid Tech Layoffs, Executives Suddenly Weigh Controversial Diversity Initiatives


By Virginia Van Zandt

The drama and division that gripped school boards last year may reach medical schools next, as the medical schools’ ranking team battles with dissident professors and activist groups for diversity and inclusion initiatives.

As corporate executives consider hiring and firing freezes, even at tech giants like Amazon, which announced its first layoffs in more than a decade this week, and Facebook, whose parent company Meta announced layoffs of 11,000 tech workers, generally marketing, human resources and diversity. the workers are the first to be attacked. Given the political battles raging in public high schools and universities and now in medical schools, executives may want to weigh more carefully whether it’s prudent to cut “soft” jobs that are disproportionately filled by women and minorities. .

As executives weigh their options, a closer look at the emerging controversy in medical schools could be instructive and illuminating.

It all started when the Association of American Medical Colleges conducted a survey of medical schools to monitor their efforts to enroll and educate more women and minorities. The association, which also has the unique power to approve or deny the accreditation of medical schools that federal funding makes possible, gives it incredible power over medical schools. Some 101 medical schools (two-thirds of the 154 medical schools in the US) responded to the survey. The association later issued a report called “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Medical Schools.” The association’s spokesmen, John Buarotti and Stuart Heiser, did not respond to email and telephone requests for comment from Zenger News.

Until now everything was as usual. So Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a board-certified kidney specialist, demurred. “Why do you decide that diversity, equity, and inclusion should be a core part of American medical education?”


Goldfarb is also president of Do No Harm, which he describes as a nonprofit organization that “fights discrimination and advocates for meritocracy in health care.”

“A school like the University of Michigan has 140 people in its diversity, equity and inclusion office. Now, these people are now very powerful in the institution, they push the institution to spend huge amounts of money on consultants who can spend $100,000 in a one-day withdrawal,” Goldfarb said. “They will bring in famous speakers and tell the institution how consistently racist it was.”

“Institutions [during the pandemic] They suddenly declared that they were racists. A small group of activists from across the country pushed this issue so hard that schools decided to adopt it,” Goldfarb said. “It is much easier to accept this than to fight it.”

Now battle lines are being drawn between the accrediting body for medical schools and a small nonprofit organization backed by a ragtag band of dissident doctors. The fight is taking place on the editorial pages of newspapers, including the New York Post, and on social media and radio shows.

In recent decades, diversity initiatives have generated little controversy, on college or corporate campuses. Diversity training has its roots at the dawn of the civil rights era of the 1960s, when government officials and academics tried to encourage schools, local governments, and private corporations to hire more women and minorities. . Recent social reform movements such as Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate have magnified the focus on racial equity in the workplace.

But that consensus may be coming to an end.

Corporate executives may want to take note that what was uncontroversial just a year or two ago is now being polarized by political factions. Florida Governor DeSantis’ battle with Disney appears to have been the start of a broader trend to question diversity and inclusion initiatives across the private sector.

The Association of American Medical Colleges report is long on statistics and short on dramatic language. It’s unclear what sparked the controversy since the association’s study is virtually identical to so many such surveys conducted in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors in the United States.

The report divided medical schools into groups based on the intensity of their diversity efforts. 95 percent received the highest rating, which is green. Another 5 percent, marked in yellow, had greater than 60 percent compliance with the association’s diversity metrics. No school got a red score below 59 percent compliance. Exactly 100 percent of all surveyed medical schools say they are using affirmative action in their admissions process, practices that are now being reviewed by the US Supreme Court.

The association’s report soon became a Rorschach inkblot: different people saw divergent meanings. For the Association of American Medical Colleges and its online supporters, the report showed a hopeful measure of progress toward racial and gender inclusion. To critics, the report showed how medical schools were marching alongside liberal ideals of individual equality toward reducing people to skin color and other physical attributes.

The report shows that the vast majority of medical schools adopt the approach to equity based on race: “99% of” institutional leaders [are] active in local, regional, and national forums to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion,” according to the report.

Meanwhile, some schools report that they specifically encourage medical professional careers that focus on diversity actions: 43% “have promotion and tenure policies that specifically reward scholarship and faculty service in DEI issues.” An example of the broader trend: Indiana University School of Medicine implemented a politics require faculty to report on diversity, equity, and inclusion activities by July 2022.

The corporate world has a similar consensus on the importance of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Some 96 percent of CEOs agree that diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are priorities or strategic goals for them, according to a 2020 Deloitte survey.

Supporters of diversity, equity, and inclusion policies say incorporating these policies leads to better patient outcomes because medical students are better prepared to treat patients of diverse racial, ethnic, and sexual orientations. A study of intercultural care conducted by Health Equity found that “nearly three-quarters [of medical residents surveyed] reported that the lack of experience with various patients is a problem in their education.”

“Commitment to consistent DEI initiatives, especially training, is not only important for patient safety and better health outcomes, but can also be key to retaining qualified and engaged employees,” said Rola Aamar, PhD, senior consultant. of clinical effectiveness at Relias, a Morrisville, North Carolina-based healthcare company, in a prepared statement.

A handful of critics worry that the Association of American Medical Colleges is politicizing medical education, rather than focusing on raising the skill level of prospective doctors, who often make life-and-death decisions.

“When you go to the doctor or undergo surgery, the first thing is that you want to get better. Many of these topics, even if well-intentioned, unfortunately take away from academic instruction time,” said Kristina Rasmussen, executive director of Do No Harm. “We should be recruiting the best doctors, who have the potential to be a great doctor, not because they check someone’s boxes.”

“Equality before the law is important. Equity is a completely different thing,” Rasmussen said. “It makes people adhere to an ideology that they may not agree with.”

Are diversity and inclusion policies suddenly controversial? The first flashpoint is likely to be what kinds of employees are being laid off as tech companies implement the biggest waves of downsizing since the “tech wreck” of April 2001.

In any layoff, the HR and diversity teams are often the first to go. During Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, almost half of Twitter’s 8,000 were laid off and employee research groups like Twitter Women and Blackbirds were dismantled. Director of people and diversity Dalana Brand give up the day Musk took over Twitter.

Executives may soon find themselves in the uncomfortable position of being criticized whether diversity officers are told to stay or go.

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