Business Leaders Continue to Support DEI Initiatives Despite Year of Attacks and Criticism

Bridge Partners’ Second Annual Inclusion Barometer highlights the continued positive impact and commitment to DEI programs in Corporate America.

NEW YORK, June 3, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — In the second annual Inclusion Barometer, released today by executive search firm Bridge Partners, business leaders show a continued commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Despite a year filled with attacks and criticisms of DEI programs from some well-known business and civic leaders including Bill Ackman, Elon Musk, and Senator Tom Cotton, 72% of C-Suite and Human Resources leaders in Corporate America plan to increase their commitment to DEI within the next two years, while only 4% plan to cut back or eliminate their programs.

The 2024 Inclusion Barometer polled 400 C-Suite and HR decision-makers at companies with at least $25 million in revenue or more than 250 employees. The survey was conducted in April 2024 and is the second such study following the inaugural Barometer from August 2023, which itself was the first statistically significant data set taken from the business community following the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate affirmative action in college admissions.

“It’s encouraging to see that, despite the near-constant attacks on DEI programs in the last year, business leaders are still focused on the facts — that diverse teams, equitable hiring processes, and inclusive cultures are all valuable drivers of stronger organizations,” says Tory Clarke, co-founder, and Partner at Bridge Partners, which focuses on leading an inclusive search process. “Our data shows not only do business leaders recognize the value of DEI, they are prepared to invest in it. Beyond the battles and debates on acronyms and nomenclature, DEI has always been about more than just words – it’s an investment in the people, approach, and culture that will drive impact, be that financial or social return, and there is still more work to be done.”

The study unveiled new and timely insights, including the impact of the political climate on DEI. Respondents are split almost in half as to whether the upcoming election and overall political climate will have an impact on their organization’s commitment to DEI: 53% indicated it would have no impact at all, while 47% said it has some impact. When polled about the impact of the recent dissolution of the US House Office of Diversity and Inclusion, 43% indicated this would have a positive impact on their DEI programs, while 23% said it would have a negative impact.

The study makes clear that, despite some positive news, there remain key challenges and needs around DEI, particularly at the leadership level. Less than half of respondents (46%) believe their executive team fully reflects the diversity of their employee and customer base, while roughly one in four executives believes DEI programs are one-sided, biased, and potentially a fad that will go away.

“Stepping back to see the bigger picture, the numbers show diversity remains elusive at the executive level, so it makes sense that firms plan to continue their investment in DEI as leadership seeks the competitive edge such diversity brings,” says Ryan Whitacre, Partner at Bridge Partners. “Beyond that, we see the demographic waves produced by the Millennials – who embrace inclusion and are now in management themselves – and Gen Z, which enters the workplace as the most diverse cohort in history, as strengthening the tidal forces propelling DEI rather than supporting those who call for an ebb to such programs in Corporate America.”

While women, racial and ethnic minorities, and older workers were most cited as represented in executive leadership, only 57% reported that LGBTQ+ individuals were included on leadership teams, with even lower percentages for people with disabilities, immigrants, formerly incarcerated individuals, and neurodivergent or neurotypical individuals.

Other Key Findings:

  • 94% believe DEI is important for its positive impact on recruiting, hiring, and retention.
  • The board (57%), shareholders (41%), and external stakeholders (35%) prioritize DEI the least. On the other hand, internally focused stakeholders like HR (87%) and executive leadership (75%) are the biggest proponents of DEI.
  • The economy was cited as the largest factor influencing DEI investment at 26%.
  • Overall, Corporate America continues to embrace DEI, with 79% of respondents indicating their company has a DEI program in place. Of those that don’t, most are standing one up.


For the second annual ‘2024 Inclusion Barometer,’ Bridge Partners surveyed 400 C-Suite and Human Resource hiring executives at companies with at least 250 employees or at least $25 million in revenue.

Bridge Partners commissioned Lab42 to conduct this survey in the field from April 10, 2024April 21, 2024. Numbers are rounded to the nearest one-tenth percentage. Based on the sample size collected, the margin of error is 5%. Statistical testing was conducted at the 95% confidence level unless otherwise noted.

About Bridge Partners

Founded in 2003, Bridge Partners is a premier retained executive search firm led by a diverse team including women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ leaders. Focused on an inclusive search process, the firm was founded on a deep commitment to equity, both in its internal culture and in its search practices. With offices in New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington DC, Bridge Partners serves a varied client base comprising major corporations, nonprofits, public sector entities, and social impact organizations globally.

Bridge Partners blends a robust 20-year legacy with a forward-thinking approach to executive search. The firm has placed over 1,000 leaders through pioneering research and leadership convenings that bring to the forefront the latest insights in the industry. Their high-touch, partnership-based model ensures that each search is meticulously co-led by experienced partners, resulting in a 100% search completion rate and an exceptional 99.5% retention rate, showcasing their unmatched service quality and client satisfaction.

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SOURCE Bridge Partners