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Paul Gottfried has made many insightful contributions in his storied academic career; however, even the most erudite thinkers have their blind spots. One thing that Gottfried errs on is the ideological proclivities of American corporations (if applying methodical individualism, the expressed opinions of executive management represent the firm). In his article, Bourgeois Liberalism [1], Gottfried infers that the leadership of US firms has moved further to the left.

Superficially, this seems to be the case, especially considering the rapid and conspicuous growth of corporate Diversity and Inclusion programs. However, most office workers are not hardcore progressives. This is also true of management. Per Fos, Kempf, and Tsoutsoura (2022) 69 % of corporate executives identify as Republicans (p.8). In the current political climate in the United States, few registered Republicans want to be labeled as woke. Politics may not explain the increase in Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in corporate America.

If Gottfried is incorrect about the political preferences of U.S. corporate executives, what could explain the uptick in D&I in the workplace? It might be sensible to look at discrimination ligation to see why executives adopt corporate policies antithetical to their values. Lawsuits are not only monetarily costly [2], but also generate negative publicity. Frequently, public perception matters more than facts. The wisest policies in corporate governance would be to create distance between the firm and the perceived instances of workplace discrimination to dispel any claims of a hostile work environment.

  This phenomenon is known as the Strategic Depth Theory of Diversity and Inclusion because where firms try to distance themselves from the incident. Strategic Depth is best defined as:            

“… the distances between the front lines or battle sectors and the combatants’ industrial core areas, capital cities, heartlands, and other key centers of population or military production..”

(Harkavy, 2001, p.12).

In the field of military strategy, there are many notable applications of this concept in geopolitical struggles. The most obvious example is Israel [3]. Israel has long been a small nation surrounded by hostile neighbors (p.4), making the acquisitions of “..Sinai, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights..” critical in achieving national security (Eisenkot, 1997,p.5). Much as territorial expansion can act as a buffer between quarreling nations, the creation of programs fostering D&I figuratively acts as a geographic barrier between the firm and the plaintiff. Including these principles in the company’s culture; gives executive management the latitude to condemn the offensive actions of middle managers and hourly employees without appearing to be hypocritical.

Notes

  1. Thanks to Calculus of Decay for re-blogging the article back in early August 2022.
  2. Even if the firm avoids paying damages, there are still costs associated with legal defense. 
  3. This is not a commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict , but a conspicuous example to illustrate my theoretical postulations.
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5 thoughts on “The Strategic Depth Theory of Diversity and Inclusion

    1. Sorry , for taking so long to reply.

      I would say that for the standpoint of methodological individualism, firms don’t have ideologies; their values reflect a composite of the various managers in charge.

      Much like log-rolling in the legislative process, this managers might trade their personal beliefs while at work in order to establish risk adverse policies that distance themselves from being implicated in a lawsuit.

      Short answer: Yes, they (as corporate executives) value avoiding lawsuits more than having their true political belief reflected in the company’s culture.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That’s doesn’t seem like a very good long term strategy for these executives. Sure, they might be able to implement Diversity training programs as a safeguard against litigation, but what about the employees who are condemned to suffer in the new ideologically contaminated work environment? Are they as thrilled as they were before to work at such a firm? I sense there’s a trade off.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sound points! It definitely seems like it’s becoming an increasingly more common maneuver made by corporations. Hence the emergence of the term “woke capitalism.” How accurate is that assessment?

    Also, a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

    Liked by 1 person

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