- Roughly 31% of chief legal officers have some level of disagreement with the statement that their organizations have well-defined diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, a survey found.
- Slightly more than half of chief diversity officers surveyed said their organizations offer diversity fellowship programs, while 70% of legal chiefs said their organizations do not offer and are not considering those programs.
- Legal chiefs and diversity officers also offered different responses on the topic of DEI incentives for executives. Roughly half of the CDOs said their organizations provide DEI-related incentives to their leaders compared to just 8% of CLOs who agreed with that statement, according to Littler’s Inclusion, Equity and Diversity C-Suite Survey Report.
The law firm’s report said its survey of C-Suite executives highlighted stark contrasts in the perspectives of legal chiefs and diversity officers, which could create clashes in the area of DEI.
“The lack of alignment in the C-suite could pose new challenges for organizations in communicating and acting on their IE&D-related positions and values,” the Littler report said.
For example, two-thirds of CDOs say their organizations offer mentorship to diverse employees. Just 37% of legal chiefs agreed with that statement.
Nearly 90% of diversity officers say their organizations’ DEI plans and goals are clear, a far higher percentage than legal chiefs who share that view.
Meanwhile, 61% of CLOs say their organizations are increasing social justice initiative efforts compared to the 11% of CDOs who agree with that statement.
“CLOs and CDOs may have meaningfully different understandings of what these programs are trying to achieve or even what falls under the definition of “social justice” — potentially hampering the effective implementation and ultimate success of IE&D programs,” the report said. “More than ever, organizations should work toward aligning their leadership not only on their IE&D values, but also how they are putting them into practice.”
These divergent views come amid close scrutiny of DEI programs following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year about race-based admissions policies in higher education.
While the ruling did not explicitly cover diversity-focused programs at corporations, law firms are among the organizations being sued for DEI fellowships and other programming in light of the high court’s actions.
As for the impact of the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action, 91% of C-suite leaders say the court’s actions have not lessened their prioritization of IE&D.
Overall, 62% of C-suite executives surveyed said that in recent years, workplace legal issues have been viewed by their leadership teams as key areas of focus that can have significant consequences for their core business and reputation.
In November 2023, 322 U.S.-based C-suite executives from a wide range of industries completed Littler’s survey via an online survey tool. Roughly 31% of respondents were chief legal officers or general counsel.