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, 2023

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.

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Steve Glaveski

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