Google and Apple Back Affirmative Action in Harvard Case

lphabet Inc.’s Google, Meta Platforms Inc. and Apple Inc. are among nearly 70 companies filing a brief with the US Supreme Court in support of affirmative action programs being challenged at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

The brief filed Monday argues corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts “depend on university admissions programs that lead to graduates educated in racially and ethnically diverse environments.”

“Only in this way can America produce a pipeline of highly qualified future workers and business leaders prepared to meet the needs of the modern economy and workforce,” the brief said. Since conservatives have a 6-3 majority, these cases on affirmative actions are the first to be brought before the courts.

On Monday, tech companies will also file separate briefs.

As many as ten companies filed the amicus or friend of court argument arguing affirmative motion is a business imperative in the 2003 case against the University of Michigan Law School. In two recent cases, involving University of Texas at Austin, fewer companies joined the similar effort.

Businesses run the danger of inciting a conservative backlash to companies that take progressive positions.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion advocates say it’s still important for the business community to make its voice heard.

“This is the perfect time for the corporate world to not just sit on the wayside,” said Lael Chappell, the director of insurance distribution at Coalition, Inc. who works on diversity, equity and inclusion issues.

Changing Environment

The latest cases are: Students for Fair Admissions and HarvardAnd Students for Fair Admissions and the University of North Carolina, the plaintiffs say affirmative action not only hurts white applicants, but amounts to an “anti-Asian penalty,” too.

UNC responds that race is only one of “dozens of factors” that the school “may consider as it brings together a class that is diverse along numerous dimensions—including geography, military status, and socioeconomic background.”

“Empirical studies confirm that diverse groups make better decisions thanks to increased creativity, sharing of ideas, and accuracy,” the companies said in support of the universities.

“These benefits are not simply intangible; they translate into businesses’ bottom lines,” they said.

The companies stated that the increasing globality of business has made diversity more crucial than it ever was in the past.

The environment has seen a significant shift in six years, since affirmative-action cases were last decided by the Supreme Court.

According to Heidi Welsh (executive director at Sustainable Investments Institute), an institution investor research organization, shareholders are pushing for companies’ disclosure of racial/gender workforce data. Another push is to make public racial justice promises, she stated.

Stakeholders like legislators and employees can pressure companies to take different positions, as well as the risks of weighing in on politically sensitive issues. The Conference Board’s May 2022 research report warned.

When Walt Disney Co. criticised a Florida law restricting what administrators and teachers can talk to young students about sexual orientation following intense pressure, there were obvious risks.

Florida Republican governor. Ron DeSantis said he viewed Disney’s public comments against the law as “provocation,” and vowed to “fight back.” Weeks later, Florida lawmakers stripped the entertainment giant of is its decades-old special tax status.

More recently, Sidley Austin received a letter from a group of Texas state legislators threatening to sue and hold criminally liable the global law firm’s partnership after announcing it would pay travel expenses for employees seeking abortions in states where they are outlawed. In June, however, the Supreme Court revoked the Constitution’s right to an abortion.

“There’s so many moving pieces,” Chappell said. “You hope for the best, of course. These things should be appreciated and used for their true impact. But it’s definitely a period of uncertainty.”

—With assistance from Greg Stohr and Brian Baxter

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