5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: January 27

As the saying goes, the news never stops — but there’s a lot of it out there, and all of it doesn’t always pertain to our readers. In this weekly news roundup, we’ll cover the top news stories that matter most to our diversity focused audience.

1. Wave of Mass Shootings Underline Importance of Checking In With Employees

After two mass shootings happened within days of each other and another shooting happened in Yakima, Washington, this week, there’s been more mass shootings that have happened so far in 2023 than days in the year. 

The shootings in Half Moon Bay, California, on Monday resulted in five men and two women being killed and another man injured. This happened three days after a gunman opened fire on a dance studio in Monterey Park that left 11 dead and nine injured. In both tragedies, the shooters were men over 60 of Asian descent. The victims of the Half Moon Bay shootings were farmworkers of Asian and Hispanic descent.

In 2022, on a Fair360, formerly DiversityInc webinar titled “Mental Health: Redefining Wellbeing in the Workplace” that took place after the mass shooting that happened at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, panelists were asked how they addressed the needs of employees of color as the shooting was targeted at Black people. 

Lisette Martinez, Executive VP & Chief Diversity Officer at Jefferson Health and Thomas Jefferson University, said the company offers continued opportunities for “brave conversations,” which allow employees to share and talk about how they are feeling. 

“If we’ve talked about this a lot, I think we’ll have these safe spaces for employees,” she said. “You can’t say it enough, providing opportunities for folks in a space where they can share anything helps them be able to move along and it also really shares how the organization is connecting with our folks and saying, ‘it’s OK. We understand and we want to be there for you, let’s talk about what we can do to improve.’”

Read more about checking in with employees after a mass shooting. 

2. Companies Have More Work to Do to Advance Racial Equity

Five Memphis police officers who were fired over how they handled the arrest of Tyre Nichols were indicted and charged for kidnapping and murder on Thursday, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced. 

CNN reported that “the former officers, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmit Martin, and Desmond Mills Jr., have each been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression.”

While the bodycam footage of the arrest has not been released yet, it is expected to be released Friday evening. The video has been released to the family, who said Nichols was severely beaten by the officers in a way similar to Rodney King in 1991. 

After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, many companies made statements about police brutality and pledged to do more diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work. Since then, the question has been: is progress still being made on diversity efforts? 

According to DEI experts, there’s been some progress, but not enough. During a webinar hosted by The PhD Project over the summer, Dr. Ella Washington, Organizational Psychologist, DEI Expert and member of the management faculty at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, said many companies have not made meaningful change when it comes to advancing racial equity. 

“Let’s assume [corporations] had positive intent with those beautifully written messages and the black squares and all of that, what they did not have is realistic expectations. They did not do the work that’s necessary to understand the short- and long-term needs to make meaningful change,” she said. “Culture does not change overnight in any organization, ever.

“One person can’t change a culture, one moment can’t change a culture. It can bring awareness, but it cannot bring meaningful change.”

Subscribe to Fair360 Enterprise to read the full article. 

3. DEI Departments Impacted by Tech Layoffs

As the world entered 2023, massive tech layoffs continued to happen, and some companies resorted to cutting DEI teams. 

These cuts have come in the form of reducing teams from 30 people to just a few, not setting goals within DEI departments and initiating hiring freezes for those roles. 

So why are DEI budgets the first to go at some companies? According to data from Gartner, it’s because organizational leaders don’t understand the benefits of DEI. The study surveyed 181 DEI leaders, and 51% said getting leadership to take ownership of DEI initiatives is a challenge. 

Subscribe to Fair360 Enterprise to read “5 Ways To Recession-Proof Your DEI Strategy.”

4. House Democrats Form Caucus around Sustainable Investing

Some House Democrats announced that they are forming a caucus to launch sustainable investing, which is a financial sector that is rapidly growing and has trillions in investment around the globe. 

Reps. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) are co-chairing the caucus. The group also includes Reps. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

“The caucus will advocate for policies sought by the sustainable investment industry, sometimes called environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment,” The Hill wrote

When it comes to ESG investing, there’s been controversy around what counts as a sustainable investment. The Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commission is part of this controversy as it is expected to release its final rule for climate disclosure in the spring. 

In a statement, Vargas said: “ESG impacts the health and vibrancy of our communities, workplaces, and ecosystem.”

Subscribe to Fair360 Enterprise to find out how companies plan to prioritize ESG in 2023.

5. Michael Patton to Step Down as South Bend’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer

South Bend, Indiana’s Diversity, Compliance and Inclusion Officer Michael Patton announced that he will step down on January 31 after serving for three years in his position. Patton was appointed by Mayor James Mueller in January 2020. 

Patton has not commented on why he is stepping down, but some speculate that it is in reaction to him firing the Human Rights Campaign’s former director Yolanda Young-Smith less than a year after she was hired and when she worked under him, alleging she was insubordinate and violated South Bend’s workplace bullying policy. 

The South Bend Tribune wrote that “Patton was criticized by members of the HRC’s oversight board for the process he used to hire Young-Smith, and for his failure to curb her alleged behavior before several employees had quit.”