Mark Cuban defends DEI even as critics swarm

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As some of the nation's largest employers pull the plug on their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, Mark Cuban is defending the policies this week, calling the practice "a positive" for business.

The billionaire, a part-owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a judge on ABC's "Shark Tank," said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that his experience as an entrepreneur and investor shows that companies that embrace DEI tend to be more successful.

"I own or invest in hundreds of companies," he wrote. "I know DEI is a positive because I see its impact on bottom lines. That's been reiterated by many CEOs."

Cuban's remarks were in response to criticism he received earlier this week from Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and conservative activist Christopher Rufo, both vocal opponents of DEI. In their own X posts, Peterson and Rufo accused Cuban of being a rich liberal elite who is trying to appear sympathetic to people from historically marginalized communities.

Statements from Cuban and his critics mark the latest chapter in an ongoing debate about the efficacy and fairness of policies aimed at making organizations more diverse and inclusive.

Although many corporations, colleges and other organizations have followed DEI principles for decades in the U.S., the ideas gained momentum four years ago following a Minneapolis police officer's murder of George Floyd. Following his death, companies vowed to beef up their DEI efforts to make their staff more racially and culturally representative.

More recently, however, companies have backtracked on those commitments, laying off their DEI officers and cutting back on related training. Companies such as Alphabet and Meta have each cut DEI-related positions, as well as planned development training for minority hires.

University systems in Florida, Texas and Wisconsin are also seeing on-campus DEI efforts wind down. And in a survey of more than 100 global leaders of major organizations, U.K.-based consulting firm Arrival found that DEI initiatives have fallen from executives' lists of top priorities.

DEI opponents, many of whom identify as conservative, argue that those efforts amount to reverse racism because they prioritize hiring and promoting people of color. Supporters of the framework say it is about helping promote equality and representation for people of different races, gender and abilities.

"We can quibble about tactics and strategies, but we cannot retreat from the idea that a 21st century America — a strong nation — has to provide equal paths to opportunity for people," Urban League CEO Marc Morial told CBS New York in February.

For companies, research on the business benefits of DEI are mixed. For example, a 2023 study by marketing firm TechTarget found that DEI can improve a company's brand image, make the organization more competitive and boost innovation. But other research has raised questions about whether prioritizing diversity and inclusion helps improve companies' financial performance.

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