The Downsides of Diversity Quotas

9 ways DEI programs can backfire and create negative downstream local and societal consequences

Steve Glaveski
7 min readMar 16


Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs have fast become a norm at most organizations with courageous executives attempting to right the wrongs of the past, all while trying to generate shareholder returns and keep sweat-shop whistleblowers quiet.

These programs aim to address past discrimination and systemic injustices by providing opportunities to historically disadvantaged groups.

Diversity quotas are a key tool of the trade of DEI practitioners. Such quotas target fair representation across gender, racial, ethnic, and sexual orientation lines, often seeking 50/50 gender parity at the board and senior executive level.

On the face of it, such initiatives make sense.

Diversity quotas can level the playing field, create a more equitable society, improve economic outcomes for marginalized groups, and encourage talent and skill development for individuals from all backgrounds.

But at what cost? And for how long?

In this think-piece, I explore some of the downstream consequences and how they might far outweigh the short-term alleged benefits.

Diversity Quotas Perpetuate Stereotypes

Diversity quotas perpetuate prejudice and unfair stereotypes by suggesting that people from certain groups can only get aspirational roles with a leg up.

This can stigmatize hires as colleagues might think that they were selected because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation as opposed to their abilities.

This has been a moot point for recent Hollywood period pieces featuring Black actors portraying white characters or in the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters — which generated a net loss of $75 million.

Diversity Quotas May Be a Form of Reverse Discrimination

Diversity quotas can be perceived as a form of reverse discrimination where perfectly qualified or ideal candidates may be overlooked in favor of less qualified candidates who belong to the desired…



Steve Glaveski

CEO of Collective Campus. HBR writer. Author of Time Rich, and Employee to Entrepreneur. Host of Future Squared podcast. Occasional surfer.