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In one of his first acts as president, Joe Biden tossed out former President Donald Trump's executive order to all but stop diversity, equity and inclusion training at federal agencies and contractors as well as by federal grant recipients.
In September, Trump's Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping order asserted that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training perpetuates racial stereotypes and division. The executive order faced at least two federal court challenges. It also raised worries among private sector firms that the order could chill DEI training efforts.
Biden's revocation of the federal directive was included in an executive order, signed Wednesday, "on advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government."
Specifically, Biden's order calls for closing gaps in wages, as well as in housing and lending.
Biden's order also establishes an Equitable Data Working Group to improve federal data analysis. Many federal datasets "are not disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status, or other key demographic variables," according to the order. "This lack of data has cascading effects and impedes efforts to measure and advance equity."
Biden's order will make a difference, said David Lewis, president and CEO at OperationsInc, an HR consulting firm in Norwalk, Conn.
"We had close to a dozen clients have to put their training plans on hold when this executive order was issued," he said.
Employers who value this type of training "have recognized that they have deficiencies within their organization's culture" and "are acting to address them -- now they can again," Lewis said.
Trump's take on DEI training
Trump's executive order said DEI training was pushing "the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country."
In one federal court case filed by organizations such as the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the plaintiffs said Trump "has declared by fiat that the country is not racist or sexist and has sought to silence speech calling out these failings."
Businesses that received federal contracts and conducted DEI training risked losing their contracts under the terms of Trump's order.
Opposition to Trump's DEI training executive order was broad, including many tech business groups and the HR Policy Association, which includes HR managers from some 390 firms that collectively employ more than 20 million people.