PwC Trims Diversity Initiatives Following Supreme Court Ruling

In response to a Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action and mounting pressure from conservative activists, PwC, one of the Big Four accounting firms, has adjusted its diversity targets in the United States. The firm, employing 46,000 people in the US, has taken a measured approach, citing the need for "rigor" in aligning its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts with the evolving legal landscape.

PwC has notably dropped some of its diversity targets and modified eligibility criteria for key programs. The adjustments are explicitly aimed at adhering to the new legal backdrop. Last June, the Supreme Court's ruling challenging race-conscious university admissions, has prompted various organizations, including the firm, to reconsider diversity initiatives that might be perceived as unconstitutional. Legal analysts have cautioned that considering an applicant's ethnicity in hiring decisions could face constitutional scrutiny.

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PwC acknowledged the Supreme Court ruling in its most recent DEI report, identifying it as one of the challenges faced in 2023 alongside economic uncertainty and social unrest. The report emphasized the application of "rigor" to advance diversity commitments while respecting the changing legal landscape.

The accounting firm became a target for America First Legal, an activist group led by Stephen Miller, a former White House policy adviser. The group contends that corporate diversity efforts discriminate against white employees and raised questions about the legality of the firm's internship and scholarship programs and supplier targets, urging the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate.

PwC's DEI report, reflecting data as of June 30, 2023, disclosed that 55% of its US employees were white. The report also indicated a 1% increase in employees identifying as Asian and Hispanic or Latino compared to the previous year, while the percentage of black employees remained consistent at 7%.

Yolanda Seals-Coffield, Chief People Officer of PwC US, reaffirmed the firm's commitment to diversity and a dynamic professional workforce, emphasizing that while the commitment remains steadfast, the approach may encounter new hurdles in the current landscape. The changes signify PwC's dedication to navigating evolving legal and social considerations while striving to maintain an inclusive work environment.