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Advertising Black Lives Matter Diversity & Inclusion

New Trump executive order tells agencies to stop ‘divisive’ diversity training or else


By Kenneth Hein | US Editor

September 28, 2020 | 5 min read

Teaching white privilege and unconscious bias are now grounds for termination, according to an executive order signed by President Trump.

Trump's latest executive order could cause great concern for agencies with government contracts.

Trump's new executive order could cause great concern for agencies with government contracts.

Here’s what you need to know.

What has Trump signed?

  • Lost within last week’s political hailstorm was a new executive order signed by President Trump that forbids agencies from participating in “divisive” diversity training.

  • The executive order calls out government vendors who teach critical race theory, white privilege and unconscious bias. It states that such training that “promotes race or sex-stereotyping or scapegoating similarly undermines efficiency in federal contracting.”

  • It threatens contracts may be “canceled, terminated, or suspended in whole or in part and the contractor may be declared ineligible for further Government contracts.”

  • The decree comes as the advertising industry has been undergoing a reckoning following the death of George Floyd.

  • All of the major holding companies have vowed to improve diversity hiring practices and to combat inherent racism. On Friday, for example, Interpublic Group chief executive Michael Roth sent an internal memo saying the holding company is “continuing to require employees to take a mandatory online anti-harassment course in the U.S.”

What it means for ad agencies?

  • This new announcement will likely cause significant concern among agencies with government contracts, said 4A’s president and chief executive, Marla Kaplowitz, “specifically in regard to stereotype training.

  • Concerns highlighted include: what activity warrants a training program as unlawful? Who has the final say as to whether or not any training programs are in compliance with the Order? And what the protocol is if a federal government agency mandates that employees attend diversity and inclusion training that contains stereotyping concepts as part of working on a contract or onsite?

  • Kaplowitz added: “These uncertainties could also present new conflicts in current obligations agencies have under state laws to adhere to diversity training programs. Agencies could potentially have to create or subscribe to different diversity training programs to comply with the new Order at great expense and complexity to many small and mid-size agencies.”

What the executive order actually says

  • Per usual, the news was announced by President Trump in a two-part tweet that said: “A few weeks ago, I banned efforts to indoctrinate government employees with divisive and harmful sex and race-based ideologies. Today, I've expanded that ban to people and companies that do business... ...with our Country, the United States military, government contractors, and grantees. Americans should be taught to take Pride in our Great Country, and if you don’t, there’s nothing in it for you!”

  • At the heart of the executive order is the statement that: "instructors and materials teaching that men and members of certain races, as well as our most venerable institutions, are inherently sexist and racist are appearing in workplace diversity trainings across the country, even in components of the Federal Government and among Federal contractors.

  • Therefore, it shall be the policy of the United States not to promote race or sex-stereotyping or scapegoating in the Federal workforce or in the Uniformed Services, and not to allow grant funds to be used for these purposes. In addition, Federal contractors will not be permitted to inculcate such views in their employees.

What sort of examples did the executive order highlight?

  • The Department of the Treasury recently held a seminar that promoted arguments that “virtually all White people, regardless of how ‘woke’ they are, contribute to racism,” and that instructed small group leaders to encourage employees to avoid “narratives” that Americans should “be more color-blind” or “let people’s skills and personalities be what differentiates them.”

  • Training materials from Argonne National Laboratories, a Federal entity, stated that racism “is interwoven into every fabric of America” and described statements like “color blindness” and the “meritocracy” as “actions of bias.”

  • Materials from Sandia National Laboratories, also a Federal entity, for non-minority males stated that an emphasis on “rationality over emotionality” was a characteristic of “white male[s],” and asked those present to “acknowledge” their “privilege” to each other.

    The executive order was made effective immediately.

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