Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Fortune 500 react to the end of affirmative action

July 1, 2023


News came Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action.


“Our country has never been so colorblind,” Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first female Black justice, wrote. “But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And having so detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences, the Court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America’s real-world problems.”


The impact of the ruling will spread beyond universities to employers, many of which have bolstered DEI efforts within their ranks over the past few years.


Fortune has been covering what an end to race-based admission decisions would look like in the U.S. and its ripple effects across corporate America. Trey Williams and Paige McGlauflin, in our June/July issue, spoke with diversity advocates and professionals to understand how they were bracing for a post-affirmative action world.


DEI experts then projected that such a ruling would lead to reduced investment in corporate DEI programs and diversity partnerships with universities. They also projected that organizations might back away from their commitments to diversify their staff up and down the org chart.


The SCOTUS decision could make it more difficult for companies to seek out diverse talent and in addition produce corporate cultures that are homogeneous in thought and experience, explained Ericka Brownlee-Keller, head of DEI at a renewable energy company.


“Many leaders in various sectors speak about the benefits of diversity—from our communities, to our campuses, to corporate offices,” she said. “But the question remains: Are they willing to stand by words previously spoken (and believed), or were they merely sound bites?”


Fortune reached out to several companies that have previously asked the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action to understand how they are adapting to the recent court decisions. Some, like Johnson & Johnson and Biogen, cited the college talent pipeline as critical to their diversity efforts. Others, like Microsoft and Wells Fargo, drew a straight line from their diverse workforce to customer satisfaction and their ability to innovate. You can read more of their responses below.

Microsoft, Salesforce, and other Fortune 500 companies react to Supreme Court striking down affirmative action: ‘Our commitment to equality doesn’t waver’

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