Over the past two years, many social causes have compelled businesses to make political statements. But not everyone has been supportive.
In May, US entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy launched a $20 million anti-woke investment fund to back companies who shy away from taking ideological stands.
Could this indicate a move away from organisations taking a stand against societal issues? Or should companies be encouraged to speak up?
Politics in the workplace:
Pushing for progress: the workplace’s role in political and social movements
Social activism could turn the workplace into a ‘wokeplace’
How to make employee activism work for your organisation
Frank Douglas, CEO and founder, Caerus Executive
Banks, for example, have always been involved in politics, mainly in battles about tax and regulation.
However, with climate change and the post-George Floyd era, the Florida ‘don’t say gay’ bill and the impending US Supreme Court decision on abortion, it is hard to avoid the culture wars.
Part of the driver for more active corporate social justice involvement is being driven by employee activism. Employees are judging their employees on where they stand on social issues.
The irony of this anti-woke movement is that firms that do not take a stand on key societal issues are likely to lose the best talent and underperform (the opposite of what Ramaswamy believes is why it is wrong).
This is primarily a US issue. UK CEOs have typically avoided comments on social justice and, respectfully, the UK workforce lacks the employee activism seen in America.
With Ramaswamy having raised only $20 million for his fund and the top four investment funds (in which he is targeting) controlling over $30 trillion, one just needs to follow the money in this battle.
Angela Peacock, global director of diversity and inclusion, PDT Global
If this move is a reframing of respecting people’s differences and being more flexible to accommodate individual needs, describing it as anti-woke is a worrying trend. However wildly misplaced the notion is, there is a deeper meaning to woke that should be considered.
If woke is used to imply that we make statements at a surface level that enable us to feel good and punish those who don’t comply, then inevitable push back comes more from frustration with disingenuous organisations making grand statements, targeting individual employees, but not addressing structural deficits.
A great example of this would be stating that you support a woman’s right to choose – but not covering this in your healthcare policies. Employees don’t want woke statements – they want their basic rights protected, no matter who they are.
It isn’t possible, as an organisation, to be politically neutral – each action taken, contract signed, product developed has political implications. Just ask any organisation with operations in Russia or Ukraine right now.
Check back tomorrow for part two of this hot topic.
The full piece of the above appears in the May/June 2022 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.