DEI Leaders are Burning Out

Mar 1, 2023

Compass with needle pointing the word leadership with blur effect plus blue and black tones.

DEI Leaders are Burning Out

Award statues and

A recent article in Human Resources Director highlights something that we’ve been hearing a lot about – diversity fatigue. It’s a term from the 90s, but it’s back now and the reasons require serious consideration. 

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, there was a wave of interest in diversity, equity and inclusion education and training. We experienced it here at SunShower Learning. We got many calls that sounded like this, “My CEO wants to do something quickly.” Or, “We need to follow through on your DEI goals, can you help us with training?” It was a pleasure to respond and help. Sometimes the requests were one-off webinars or trainings, but sometimes the interest was for on-going support and education. That has been rewarding. 

Over the last few years, many companies created new DEI positions and hired people to fill the roles. But now, a few years later, it’s becoming clear that the wave of interest and good intentions were not supported with enough resources to make progress. 

From the article, “DEI isn’t even considered one of HR’s top five priorities in 2023, according to McLean & Company’s 2023 HR Trends Report. Its sixth-place ranking, which is down a level from last year (and down two levels from 2021), indicates that organizations are “failing to maintain momentum on their DEI work.”

The lack of commitment, resources, money and support from the C-Suite can wear on DEI leaders. The article quotes Dawn Frazier-Bohnert, executive vice president and global DEI officer at Liberty Mutual “Diversity fatigue is real for lots of people. I would be fibbing if I didn’t admit to experiencing it. This work is long and hard and there’s no end. While we all want to be moving faster, other folks in the company may be asking, ‘Are we still doing diversity?’”

More than a quarter (28%) of companies say their investment in DEI has stayed the same over the past year, and 18% have actually decreased their investment, according to Lever’s 2022 DEI Through the Recruiting Lifecycle Report. Studies reveal that only half of employees think their organization truly cares about DEI, while 39% think their organization views it as just a checkbox. And it’s hard to question that when budgets have stayed the same or even decreased from last year. 

Check out our video on the SunShower home page that dramatically illustrates the research around diversity and what new hires are looking for. 

Here at SunShower, we’ve worked with Frazier-Bohnert and her Liberty Mutual DEI team. SunShower was hired to help them create the Inclusion in Action: 9 Inclusive Leadership Skills eLearning. Frazier-Bohnert wrote that her impetus for the 9 Skills was “to move from awareness to action, we needed to find a way to make inclusion real and actionable.” 

The article mentions that Frazier-Bohnert empathizes with the DEI leaders who were thrust into a pressure cooker post-Floyd and expected to transform an entire organization within only a couple years. Liberty Mutual had a head start over many companies, creating its DEI department in 2013 with Frazier-Bohnert’s arrival at the insurance giant.

“We’re in a different place than some of the companies who weren’t able to think through a process and the steps required,” Frazier-Bohnert told HRD. “They were jumping to things that took us years to get to. I’m not surprised that some of those companies who hired a diversity practitioner for the first time and set lofty goals are now thinking nothing has changed. That’s what happens when you’re not able to be thoughtful because you’re reacting versus being strategic.”

“We have to recognize that DEI is a process,” Frazier-Bohnert says. “We have to build small milestones along the way so we can feel we’re making progress and to remind ourselves there are some things out of our control that do impact our progress.”

The article also quotes Linda Johnson, CHRO at Food Lion, a grocery chain serving the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. “DEI isn’t just a trend – it’s a genuine effort to improve the workplace. We know that diverse talent directly affects business results, so, for some, the bottom line may be the motivation needed to evolve the workplace and talent roster.”

You can read the full article here

DEI leaders are burning out and to help address the personal stress of doing the hard DEI work, we are in production on a new program that is designed for DEI practitioners at all levels to help them develop and maintain their own wellness. Stay tuned – we will have an announcement in the late spring. 

More From Our Blog…

“Laying Low” Is the Wrong DEI Strategy

“Laying Low” Is the Wrong DEI Strategy

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”- Martin Luther King, Jr. In an era marred by politicized attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), Shaun...

read more
Painful Stories: Unconscious Bias in Health Care

Painful Stories: Unconscious Bias in Health Care

Many Black women express a sense of being ignored or dismissed by healthcare professionals. The repercussions of such experiences can be life-threatening for both mothers and babies. The New York Times has published a new article that takes a closer look at this...

read more
Navigating Thanksgiving – Speak Up or Stay Silent?

Navigating Thanksgiving – Speak Up or Stay Silent?

Tis the day before Thanksgiving and all through the land, people are anxious. Amidst the joy of the holiday—cherishing togetherness, celebrating with family and friends, and expressing gratitude— there's a potential for discomfort as opinions are shared and points of...

read more
Confronting the Backlash: The DEI Imperative 

Confronting the Backlash: The DEI Imperative 

  “Three short years after their collective response to massive protests over the police murder of George Floyd, companies are reneging on their diversity pledges." In their recent MIT Sloan Review article titled "Countering the Corporate Diversity Backlash,"...

read more
Announcing the New SunShower App

Announcing the New SunShower App

After months of development, the new SunShower Learning learner app is now ready for prime time. Access a free download here:iTunes App StoreGoogle Play Store When you purchase a license for one or more of our award-winning eLearning courses and opt for delivery...

read more