Amid tech layoffs, executives suddenly weigh controversial diversity initiatives

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By Virginie Van Zandt

The drama and division that has plagued school boards over the past year could come to medical schools next time around – as the medical school grading team battles with dissident professors and groups of activists about diversity and inclusion initiatives.

As corporate executives consider hiring freezes and layoffs — even at tech giants like Amazon, which announcement its first layoffs in more than a decade this week, and Facebook, whose parent company Meta announcement the layoffs of 11,000 tech workers – usually marketing, HR and diversity workers are targeted first. Given the political battles raging in public high schools and colleges and now in medical schools, leaders might want to weigh more carefully whether it’s safe to cut ‘soft’ jobs that are disproportionately filled by women. and minorities.

As leaders weigh their options, a closer look at the emerging medical school controversy 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 singular power to approve or deny medical school accreditation that makes federal funding possible, gives it incredible power over medical schools. Some 101 medical schools (two-thirds of the 154 US medical schools) responded to the survey. The association later published a report entitled “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Medical Schools”. Association spokespersons John Buarotti and Stuart Heiser did not respond to Zenger News’ email and phone requests for comment.

So far it was business as usual. Then Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a board-certified kidney specialist, objected. “Why do they decide that diversity, equity and inclusion should be at the heart of American medical education? »

Goldfarb is also chairman of Do no harmwhich 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 office of diversity, equity and inclusion. Now these people are now very powerful in the institution, they are pushing the institution to spend huge amounts of money on consultants who can spend $100,000 for a one-day retreat,” Goldfarb said. “They’ll bring in famous speakers and they’ll tell the institution how systematically racist it was.”

“Establishments [during the pandemic] suddenly declared that they were racist. A small group of activists across the country pushed this issue so strongly that schools decided to embrace it,” Goldfarb said. “It’s much easier to accept that than to fight it.”

Now the battle lines are being drawn between the medical school accrediting body and a small nonprofit backed by a ragtag band of dissident doctors. Fighting rages in newspaper editorials, including in the New York Postand on social media and talk radio.

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 businesses to hire more women and of minorities. Recent social reform movements, such as Black Lives Matter and stop asian hateamplified the focus on racial equity in the workplace.

But that consensus may be coming to an end.

Business leaders may want to note that what was uncontroversial just a year or two ago is now 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 in the private sector.

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

The report divided medical schools into groups based on the intensity of their diversity efforts. 95% received the highest rating, which is colored green. Another 5%, marked in yellow, scored above 60% compliance with the association’s diversity measures. No school received a red score below 59% compliance. Exactly 100 percent of all medical schools surveyed say they use affirmative action in their admissions process, practices that are currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The association’s report quickly became a Rorschach inkblot – different people saw differing meanings in it. For the Association of American Medical Colleges and its supporters online, the report showed a measure of promising progress toward racial and gender inclusion. For critics, the report showed how medical schools were moving away from liberal ideals of individual equality to reduce people to skin color and other physical attributes.

The report shows that the vast majority of medical schools emphasize race-based equity: “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 specifically promoting the careers of healthcare professionals who focus on diversity actions: 43% “have promotion and tenure policies that specifically reward scholarships and faculty service on DEI topics”. An example of the general trend: Indiana University School of Medicine has implemented a Politics requiring faculty to report diversity, equity and inclusion activities in July 2022.

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

Proponents of diversity, equity, and inclusion policies claim that integrating these policies leads to better patient outcomes because medical students are better prepared to treat patients of diverse racial, ethnic, and ethnic orientations. sexual. Intercultural support study by Health Equity found that “nearly three-quarters [of medical residents surveyed] reported that lack of experience with various patients was a problem in their education.

“Commitment to consistent DEI initiatives, particularly training, is not only important for patient safety and better health outcomes, but can also be essential for retaining skilled and engaged employees,” said Rola Aamar. , PhD, Senior Clinical Effectiveness Consultant at Relias, a Morrisville, North Carolina-based healthcare company in a statement.

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

“When you go to see the doctor or have surgery, the number one thing is that you want to get better. A lot of these topics, no matter how well-meaning, unfortunately take away from academic teaching time,” Kristina said. Rasmussen, executive director of Do No Harm “We should hire the best doctors, who have the potential to be a great doctor, not because they tick someone’s boxes.”

“Equality before the law is important. Fairness is something else entirely,” Rasmussen said. “It forces people to buy into an ideology that they may not agree with.”

Are diversity and inclusion policies suddenly controversial? The first flashpoint will likely be the type of employees laid off as tech companies implement the biggest waves of workforce reductions since the April 2001 “tech wreck”.

In the event of a layoff, the Human Resources and Diversity teams are often the first to go. During Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, nearly half of Twitter’s 8,000 were fired and employee-seeking groups like Twitter Women and Blackbirds were fired. disassembled. Director of Human Resources and Diversity Dalana Brand resigned the day Musk took over Twitter.

Leaders may soon find themselves in the uncomfortable position of being criticized, being told to stay or go.

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