Zoom declares new DEI approach as tech industry trims diversity investments

Zoom will partner with “well-established and well-regarded DEI firms who work closely with tech companies,” its COO told employees in a Jan. 29 memo.

Published Feb. 13, 2024

Ryan GoldenSenior Reporter

Video communications platform Zoom announced job cuts late last month as well as a strategic shift in the company’s approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, according to an internal document viewed by HR Dive.

Zoom Chief Operating Officer Aparna Bawa disclosed the changes to staff in Jan. 29 memo, stating that the company “recognized that we need to change the way we approach both DEI and learning and development” and would be “partnering closely with well-established and well-regarded DEI firms who work closely with tech companies.”

The cuts included an internal team focused on DEI, according to Bloomberg.

The news comes as other technology companies have announced changes to their DEI programs, including Google and Meta, according to a December CNBC report. Employers also have had to consider the possibility that their DEI commitments will be targeted by lawsuits following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2023 decision on university admission programs.

“Zoom remains committed to DEI and ensuring its principles remain firmly rooted in our DNA across our entire company,” the company told HR Dive in an email.

In her memo, Bawa said Zoom would “introduce different programming to engage all of our employees” while also continuing its support for employee resource groups. The company will change up its approach to personal and team development topics, such as DEI, “to better support the individual needs of leaders and teams.”

“We want to support and champion inclusion by embedding our values — and what it means to be a Zoomie — directly into our people programs rather than as a separate initiative after the fact,” Bawa said.

Signs of wider corporate backtracking on DEI have proliferated since 2022, when warnings of a potential economic downturn led to concerns that the function would be put on the back burner. For example, an early 2023 Monster report found that DEI initiatives were among the first business areas to be cut in the event of a recession, behind only company events and bonuses.

Sources who previously spoke to HR Dive have nonetheless advised HR leaders to continue tying DEI efforts to business objectives such as compensation, hiring and mental health. At the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2023 Inclusion event, one speaker told attendees to focus on building trust with employees, among other strategies, as a means of combating opposition to DEI.

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HR teams also may need to hone their data analysis skills, sources said, to better understand the demographics of their workforces and whether DEI initiatives have measurably affected areas workers care about, such as career advancement.

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