Supreme Court ban of affirmative action at universities; DEI leader chimes in

The attorney and host shares why companies should still foster diverse and inclusive workforces

Natalie E. Norfus is an attorney and entrepreneur known as an influential thought leader in DEI. As the founder of The Norfus Firm and host of the popular “What’s the DEIL?” podcast, she explores how leaders can create space for authentic human connection through the lens of DEI while focusing on practical strategies, and the best practices to improve employee engagement, retention, and impact.

Norfus opened up about the Supreme Court ban of affirmative action at colleges and universities.

What are your thoughts about the Supreme Court ban on affirmative action at colleges and universities?

It’s disappointing because what affirmative action was set out to do, we not only didn’t achieve it, but we also didn’t make sure there were laws in place so we weren’t in this kind of situation. In like 2003, there was an affirmative action case that dealt with the University of Michigan and the use of race-conscious practices for admission. In that case, the lead justice who supported the finding said in 20 to 25 years, we shouldn’t need affirmative action anymore. That would have been a signal to folks to kind of advocate. We were on borrowed time.

We should have been advocating for law so that we weren’t on borrowed time, because the Supreme Court can change, their human beings, so their opinions can change, but I was surprised to find that less than 25 percent of colleges even used these standards. There were already nine states that had banned affirmative action, including California, which is the biggest state in the country. That had me thinking what were we thinking that affirmative action was doing?

How are you using the “What’s the DEIL?” podcast to educate people and spark change?

We work with a lot of executives. What we were seeing time and time again, was not that these executives were against the DEI or didn’t want to be involved in it, but they didn’t know what to do. Then they freeze. Then they don’t do anything, because we live in a litigious society so understandably, they don’t want to say the wrong thing. They don’t want to get sued. They don’t want to do the wrong thing. We were like, everybody’s not going to sue you. People want you to come and be authentic, show that you’re not perfect, and show that you’re on this journey, too.

With “What’s The DEIL?” we anchor it towards senior leaders in organizations to help them with day-to-day issues of, “How do I handle this?” No one’s expecting you to be an expert on every single topic but we are expecting you to come in, be mindful about the fact that you’re at the top of the food chain, you have people who work for you who aren’t, and they’re dealing with different things that you’re not. How do you address that? How do you build trust with people? It’s to be practical.

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