Diversity and inclusion training providers are concerned recent strides in corporate America to address racial and gender disparities will take a back seat after President Donald Trump ordered restrictions on racial sensitivity training for federal contractors.
Many companies expanded their workplace diversity training programs earlier this year following the civil unrest resulting from George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May.
The topics of white privilege, systemic racism and unconscious bias have become focal points in those programs, consultants say. Now, they're the target of an order from Trump cutting off funding to contractors who teach "divisive" and "anti-American" concepts.
Last week, Trump signed an executive order that bars federal contractors from promoting race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating in their diversity training programs. Companies could risk losing contracts if they don't comply.
The Chicago area is home to some of the biggest federal contractors, including aerospace manufacturer Boeing and medical device maker Abbott Laboratories, which recently inked a deal with the federal government to provide 150 million rapid COVID-19 antigen tests. Neither responded to requests for comment.
Under the order, contractors are prohibited from teaching concepts that "promote divisiveness in the workplace and distract from the pursuit of excellence and collaborative achievements in public administration."
Contractors can't teach that the U.S. is fundamentally racist or sexist, claim members of a certain race are oppressors or put blame on a certain race or sex for past actions committed by other members of the same race or sex.
The executive order cited training materials from Argonne National Laboratories, a research lab in Lemont, Ill., that is part of the U.S. Department of Energy. According to the order, Argonne's training materials stated racism "is interwoven into every fabric of America" and described color blindness and the meritocracy as "actions of bias."
Argonne referred requests for comment to the energy department, which declined to name Argonne's diversity training provider or say how long the program had been in place.
Shaylyn Hynes, an agency spokeswoman, said in an email Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette has "directed DOE leadership to conduct an expedited enterprise wide review of diversity and inclusion workshops."