There’s a lot of ink getting spilled about the relative merits of DEI work, and I can’t help but shake my head at it after a while.
The hysteria about this work and what it can do to businesses is, like all moral panics, completely overblown and the danger comes in actively going against the DEI tide.
I suppose if you wanted to you could call this an act of self-preservation on my part. After all, if companies stop wanting to embrace DEI work more generally and neurodiversity more specifically it means I’m out of a job.
True as that may be, I genuinely believe in the value of my work on a social level but more relevantly on a business level.
It’s so strange to think that I would be in this only for myself but given the business environment, I can see why people would think that.
The Moral Vacuum of Corporate America
First, let’s get something straight about corporate America: it has no inherent moral values. The institution of the corporation has no moral agenda in and of itself.
All that matters is turning a profit and passing those profits on to shareholders. Doesn’t matter if you’re starving orphans in the process, doesn’t matter if you’re housing the elderly in the process, doesn’t matter if you’re dumping toxic sludge into the river in the process.
What matters is that profits are coming and that there are more profits this quarter than the last one.
That’s it. “It’s just business.” Whatever you may personally believe and value, your employer does not and cannot share them because, on a very fundamental level, the company cannot understand human-level ethics. I say this not as a value judgment but as a statement of fact.
Once we understand this the political activities of any corporation can be seen as what they are: investments that they expect a financial return on.
Keeping this in mind, DEI initiatives aren’t “woke capitalism” (remember, companies have no inherent moral values, meaning they can’t be “woke,” whatever that means to you) but rather a rational response to changing market forces.
If you’re in a leadership role at any business, part of your job is to adapt to this shift. If you don’t, your product will end up suffering and it won’t find the widest audience it could have.
Companies Adapt to Changing Social Values for Profit, Not Morality
Here’s a real-life example of how embracing diversity can be a major business advantage, and it comes from the film industry. In the summer of 2023, we saw The Flash and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse release around the same time.
There’s plenty of similarities between them. Both are about younger heroes designed to appeal to younger audiences, both feature comic-book insanity to explain the multiple versions of the same character running around, and both feature older heroes who are trying to teach them a lesson that they have learned the hard way to prevent interdimensional catastrophe.
One of the central questions of these films is “Can we really change the way things have to happen?
However, the two films come to nearly opposite conclusions to this thematic question. The Flash essentially says to audiences that not only is change not possible, but it’s not a good idea to try and change things because you can make things so much worse if you try.
Besides, the traumas build character so you should try and just live your life after them. Spider-Verse takes the same thematic question and says:
“Everyone keeps telling me how my story is supposed to go, Nah. I’m doing my own thing,”
Having our hero not only works to fix the tragedies that apparently must happen according to “canon events” but also says that those systems that enforce that tragedy might be founded on silly ideas that don’t make sense.
Change is not only possible but the right thing to do.
Take a guess which one resonated with its target Gen-Z audience and grossed $690 million on a $100 million budget while the other grossed $270 million on a $200 budget and ended up losing its parent company around $200 million?
If you guessed it was the film with a dour and defeatist opinion…well the Barbie movie (coincidentally another film that got called “woke,” but more for its deconstruction of femininity and masculinity) more than made up for The Flash’s financial disaster.
FAQ's: About DEI
- DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) work refers to company initiatives and policies aimed at promoting diverse representation, eliminating bias, and creating an inclusive culture.
- This is significant today as diverse markets and workforces continue to expand globally.
- DEI is more than a passing trend. Diverse teams and inclusive cultures have been shown to improve decision-making, innovation, and financial performance over the long term. DEI is becoming a business imperative.
- Embracing diversity widens a company’s perspectives, allows them to understand diverse markets/audiences, and appeals to a broader consumer base. This directly translates to an advantage in reaching new demographics and increasing profits.
- DEI is not “woke capitalism.” While companies spotlight DEI efforts for PR, the core driver is remaining competitive by adapting to changing demographics and social norms – not ideology.
- Yes, DEI is fully compatible with profit-driven business. A diverse workforce and inclusive culture directly serve the goal of increasing market share, innovation, and financial returns in today’s global landscape.