Deloitte Is Ditching Affinity Groups for Women, Minorities and LGBT Employees

By Erik Oster Comment

Deloitte is preparing to dissolve affinity groups for women, minorities and LGBT employees, but that doesn’t mean the global consultancy thinks the conversation around diversity is over.

WIN, Deloitte’s women’s initiative is ending after 24 years, and the company also plans to phase out groups for LGBT employees, minorities and veterans over the next 18 months, Bloomberg reports. In their place, Deloitte will offer “inclusion councils” which bring together individuals from a range of different demographic groups to discuss diversity issues.

“By having everyone in the room, you get more allies, advocates, and sponsors,” Deepa Purushothaman, national managing principal, inclusion at Deloitte and former head of WIN, explained to Bloomberg. “A lot of our leaders are still older white men, and they need to be part of the conversation and advocate for women. But they’re not going to do that as much if they don’t hear the stories and understand what that means.”

But not everyone agrees it’s time to move past employee resource groups.

“We need these groups until such time as people of like identity don’t need to close the door and seek a safe space,” Jennifer Brown, a consultant that helps companies create such groups, told Bloomberg. “We’re not there yet.”

In addition to competing with agencies for clients and employees, Deloitte purchased San Francisco agency Heat in February of 2016, one of several investments designed to differentiate the company as “creative digital consulting.”

Advertising’s diversity issues are no secret. A survey released by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) last September found that 74 percent of 4A’s members felt agencies were “mediocre or worse” when it came to diverse hiring practices. Another survey, released a month prior, found that more than half of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the work place.

In May of 2016, Deutsch eliminated its director of diversity position, with an agency spokesperson at the time saying, “One of the philosophies we lean into is that everybody at Deutsch, from the CEO to the receptionist, owns diversity…Having one person who owned it … kind of took the responsibility off everybody else.” 

“I was told that the agency was no longer going to invest in diversity,” Felicia Geiger, who formerly held the role, claimed. “They wanted to put their efforts behind other initiatives, such as technology.”

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