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Corporate firms have long expressed their support for the idea that their organizations should become more demographically diverse while creating a culture that is inclusive of all members of the firm. These firms have traditionally, however, not been successful at improving demographic diversity and true inclusion within the upper echelons of their organizations. The status quo seemed unlikely to move, but expectations for corporate firms were upended after the #MeToo Movement of 2017 and 2018, which was followed by corporate support of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement in 2020. These two social movements, while distinct in many ways, forced firms to rethink how to approach the status of women and people of color within their organizations. It forced them to ask, yet again, but with renewed energy: “What is the best way to improve diversity and inclusion within firms?”

This Article seeks to contribute to scholarly conversations aimed at addressing that, admittedly elusive, question head-on. It argues that in addition to pursuing the business and legal cases for diversity when crafting diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”) programs, firms should also employ insights from behavioral ethics literature. By utilizing insights from behavioral ethics literature, firms can better prompt decisionmakers to recognize that DEI questions—whether under the business or legal case for diversity—are questions that should be evaluated from an ethical perspective. Scholars and firm leaders have long debated the accuracy of the business case rationale in support of DEI efforts. More recent scholarship has focused on the legal case in support of DEI efforts. This Article recognizes that firms committed to crafting meaningful DEI reforms must focus on both the business and legal cases, but they must reinforce the ethical ramifications of DEI concerns under both frameworks. In short, firms committed to creating a successful DEI program must find ways to evoke ethical framing when engaged in the creation of diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizational cultures.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Corporate governance, Diversity in the workplace, Business ethics, Corporate culture