From tech giants such as Shutterfly to Google, Pinterest and others, over 162,000 employees from over 1,000 tech companies, were laid off in 2022¹. While the COVID-19 pandemic shook industries such as hospitality, tourism, and events, the tech industry went into a period of hyper growth with rapid expansion. But like many industries, hypergrowth slowed down dramatically, and by the end of 2022, they were faced with declining revenue and tough decisions to make. Amazon laid off over 18,000 workers², Meta cut 13% of their staff³, and Groupon laid off more than 1,000 workers¹ in an attempt to keep their company afloat.
While layoffs are the norm as the United States goes into recession, the layoffs in the tech industry affected minorities more than expected. As a predominately white, male-dominated industry, many minorities were the first to go, as their roles were widely viewed as expendable. As a result, employees are worried about DEI progress being stalled and, in some cases, eliminated. And the concern isn’t just with entry-level employees. A study done by Dynata found that 67% of senior leaders are concerned that their companies will be less diverse due to planned layoffs and continued reductions in headcount.⁴
Navigating layoffs is never easy, but we can learn a thing or two from companies like Twilio. When the company announced an 11% reduction in staff, the CEO said that the layoffs wouldn’t affect marginalized groups more than others⁵. While there is no “equitable way” to lay off employees, you can be respectful and mindful of how you cut. The approach of last in, first out does not work anymore, especially with the push for more diverse hiring and recruiting practices over the last 36 months. Marginalized groups, recent college graduates, and people with disabilities are more affected than others.
It’s simple: companies' actions in 2023 must match the messages of 2020. Not only do layoffs affect progress, but if done wrong, they can also affect the company’s reputation. Whether it’s Glassdoor or a LinkedIn post, potential employees and vendors research before getting into business with or accepting a job offer. Having a reputation for laying off the majority of your minority employees is not a good look.
In 2023, accountability, transparency, and progress during layoffs matters. Don’t allow layoffs to wipe away all your DEI progress.
¹Tech layoff Tracker and startup layoff lists. Layoffs.fyi. (2023, January 17).
²Person, & Jeffrey Dastin, U. S. K. (2023, January 5). Amazon to cut 18,000 jobs as layoffs expand in Tech Sector. Reuters.
³Q.ai - Powering a Personal Wealth Movement. (2022, December 8). Meta layoffs - facebook continues to cut costs by cutting headcount. Forbes.
⁴Callahan, C. (2023, January 5). 'my biggest fear is a homogenous organization': Dei experts concerned about transparency around layoffs. WorkLife.
⁵Robison, K. (2022, September 15). Twilio may have just made the first big 'anti-racist' layoffs. Fortune.