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Racial justice in the workplace: In-depth look at diversity’s struggle to crack corporate boardrooms
A USA TODAY analysis of previously undisclosed hiring records from dozens of top firms found that more than a year later, executive roles remain overwhelmingly white.Colin Smith/USA TODAY NetworkIn the wake of George Floyd’s murder, corporate America pledged to do better, saying it would diversify its leadership, encourage equity and take concrete actions to root out systemic racism.But a USA TODAY analysis of previously undisclosed hiring records from dozens of top firms found that more than a year later, executive roles remain overwhelmingly white and male. Black and Hispanic workers, particularly women, tend to be concentrated in the lowest ranks, and some of the nation’s most powerful brands still refuse to disclose data on the gender, ethnic and racial makeup of their workforce.The eight-part series combed the records of the Standard & Poor’s 100, some of the most highly valued companies in the stock market.Building pipelines for diversity successAnthony D. Wilbon, dean of the Howard School of Business, and Charlotte Newman, senior manager at Amazon, talk growth strategies for diversity and equityJarrad Henderson, USA TODAYThey revealed that while Black and Hispanic employees are often overrepresented as compared to U.S. census data on the nation’s workforce among the technicians, administrative assistants and laborers who form the backbone of many organizations, they are less likely to be found at the company’s senior levels, or in other professional positions. The lack of diversity in corporate roles that pay the highest salaries, offer the best benefits and provide a path to promotions, influence and leadership, hardens the racial and gender wealth gap that’s resulted in the typical white family having eight times the wealth of the typical Black family and five times the wealth of the typical Hispanic household. What Amazon, Disney, Walgreens and others won’t tell you about the diversity of their workers.Colin Smith/USA TODAY NetworkCompanies have become more transparent in the 14 months since Floyd’s killing when protests condemning systemic bias and calling for social justice swept the nation. Among the S&P 100, a record 54 companies, including Merck, Ford Motor Co, Bank of America and Target, gave USA TODAY their EEO-1 forms, documents detailing the gender, race and ethnic breakdown of their workforces that businesses are required to provide each year to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.Another 23 corporations, including Home Depot, Walmart and Boeing said they would publicly disclose that information this year or in 2022.Altria, Abbott Laboratories, AT&T, General Dynamics and UnitedHealth Group were among the companies that provided their EEO-1 reports after publication deadline.But some of the nation’s most well-known brands, such as Exxon, T-Mobile and FedEx, rejected USA TODAY’s requests and gave no future date when they might provide such information to the public. Amazon, which last released its EEO-1 report in 2016, also would not provide the most recent demographic data of its workforce but said it would release its 2020 data in the coming months.Federal officials will not release these demographic records to the public without companies’ permission, citing privacy protections in the Civil Rights Act. A civil suit filed by Reveal, a nonprofit investigative journalism outlet, challenges the legality of hiding these records from the public. Black and Hispanic talent is missing at the top and concentrated at the bottom of the top U.S. companies.Colin Smith/USA TODAY NetworkCompanies often point to the diversity of their boards of directors to distract from the concentration of white men in their corporate suites. But board membership at the 54 companies examined by USA TODAY also did not reflect the racial makeup of their business’s workforces, let alone the nation’s overall population.While white men make up about a third of U.S. workers, they held half or more of board seats at 33 of the 54 companies.Amgen, a biopharmaceutical company, had the highest percentage of white men on its board – eight people, or 73% – even though only 30% of the company’s workers are white males. White women held two of the remaining three board seats, which is almost half of their rate in the company’s workforce.Compared to their company workforces, white, non-Hispanic men were only underrepresented on 12 company boards, almost always by just a handful of percentage points. Among the remaining corporations reviewed, the share of white, male board directors often was two or three times higher than their business’ workforce. The companies also appointed white women to their boards at higher rates than people of color.White, non-Hispanic women held a disproportionately large share of board memberships at about two-thirds of companies.White women had no seats on the board of Coca-Cola despite holding 23% of all jobs. At Starbucks, they held just 9% of seats while accounting for 38% of the company’s workers.About a third of companies had boards where the percentage of men of color matched or exceeded their representation in the business’s workforce. Six companies did not have any men of color on their boards. Another 19 companies did not have any directors who were women of color. They were equitably represented or overrepresented on the boards of just 10 companies. But those figures are based on counting all non-white women together, obscuring the lack of Black and Hispanic women board members in particular. Darren Walker, head of the philanthropic Ford FoundationWe have to move from tokenism to transformation. Having one Black on the board or the chief diversity officer three levels down from the CEO will not result in a successful strategy. There has to be genuine authenticity.“We have to move from tokenism to transformation,” says Darren Walker, who is head of the philanthropic Ford Foundation and a diversity advocate. “Having one Black on the board or the chief diversity officer three levels down from the CEO will not result in a successful strategy. There has to be genuine authenticity.”At about half of the companies reviewed, the board membership had more representation for people of color than among the business’s executives, although men of color were much more likely to hold those seats than women.For instance, 44% of board seats at Gilead Sciences Inc., a pharmaceutical company, are filled by four men of color but no women of color. Two white men and three white women hold the rest. Yet, men of color account for 20% of the company’s executives and 26% of its workforce.Women of color account for a larger share of McDonald’s workforce than any of the 54 companies reviewed: 44%. None sit on the company’s 13-member board.Again, these tallies lump together ethnic and racial groups that face different challenges with workplace discrimination and gaining the kind of career recognition that leads to invites for board seats. Closing the gaps will take targeted strategies, experts say.A diverse board appeared to help some S&P 500 companies weather the economic downturn sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic better than businesses whose boardrooms were less inclusive, according to a new report.S&P 500 businesses whose boards were more than 30% people of color experienced a 4% bump in revenue as compared to the previous year, while their peers whose boards were less than 20% people of color saw their revenue dip 2.8%, according to BoardReady, a nonprofit focused on making boards more inclusive.And companies, where women made up more than 30% of the directors, outperformed those whose boards had fewer women in 11 of the top 15 S&P 500 sectors last year. “It’s striking that so many aspects of diversity correlated with better performance,” the report’s lead researcher, Rajalakshmi Subramanian, said in a statement announcing the findings. “No matter whether you’re looking at racial diversity, gender diversity, or diversity in age, companies with a broader range of perspectives at the board table did better.”The gains that have been made in some board rooms have been hard-won, and companies can easily backtrack if advocates aren’t vigilant, says Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox and the first Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. She’s been leading the charge to diversify the boards of major corporations. “The board level in many publicly traded companies is better than the C-suite data and it’s better than the employment levels,” Burns told USA TODAY in an interview. “Basically, if you beat the (crap) out of them about something – I’m sorry to say it this way – they will pay a little bit of attention to it, with the hope that we will forget about it after a while, and they then can take their foot off the pedal.”Mondelēz International, which produces snacks like Oreos and Ritz crackers, has no women of color and only one man of color on its 12-person board. Nearly 40% of the company’s workers are people of color.In an emailed statement, the company said that last year, it signed on to the Board Diversity Action Alliance, which aims to make boards more inclusive.”We value diversity within our board of director members, as we do throughout our organization,” the company said. “We know we can and will continue to improve in this space.”USA TODAY’s series puts a spotlight on several industries including:People of color are far less likely than white employees to hold management or professional roles at the nation’s top tech companies, USA TODAY found.Colin Smith/USA TODAY NetworkWhile white employees across all U.S. industries are three times as likely as their Black or Hispanic peers to get top jobs, the gap is even starker among the nation’s largest tech firms.White employees at Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are five times as likely to be executives as their Hispanic colleagues and seven times as likely as their Black co-workers, USA TODAY found.And while women are underrepresented among managers and executives throughout corporate America – a pattern that continues in the tech world – the disparity among Black tech employees is particularly striking. In that sector, Black men are twice as likely as Black women to have leadership roles. Black and Hispanic workers have a disproportionate share of lower-level jobs in big tech. At tech companies analyzed by USA TODAY, nearly half of white employees had professional positions as compared to 1 in 5 Hispanic workers and 1 in 9 Black workers. The professional gap between white and Black employees in tech was three times greater than what is seen in the overall labor force.People of color make headway as bank managers, but whites still fill executive-level jobs.Colin Smith/USA TODAY NetworkLeadership of the nation’s major banks has traditionally been – and continues to be – predominantly white.White people fill 73% to 87% of all executive positions at US Bancorp, Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase. Wells Fargo says that it will release its EEO-1s for 2019 and 2020 later this summer, roughly a year after its CEO Charles Scharf, a white man, drew criticism for saying the San Francisco-based company missed its diversity benchmarks because there was a limited pool of Black executives to draw from.USA TODAY finds executive positions at Coke, Costco, Pepsi and Starbucks largely white.Colin Smith/USA TODAY NetworkAt some of the nation’s largest or best-known food companies and chains, the diversity in top jobs is vastly out of sync with the broader population.White workers are 64% of the nation’s workforce, while Hispanic workers are 16.8% and Black workers are 11.2%, according to U.S. Census data.But 87% of executive positions at Costco are occupied by white people. Meanwhile, 77% of executives at Pepsi and 74% at Coca-Cola are white, according to records obtained by USA TODAY. McDonald’s was the most reflective of the U.S.’s racial demographics with white people filling two-thirds of executive roles. Although the company’s leadership was the closest to matching the overall American workforce, McDonald’s still had disproportionately high rates of Black and Hispanic people, particularly women, in lower-paying and lower-ranking jobs. Contributing: Jessica Guynn and Craig HarrisEvery year, companies send the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a one-page form called an EEO-1, counting workers by race, ethnicity and gender in 10 occupation categories. The U.S. Census Bureau also produces a summary of the American workforce that uses the same industry, occupation, race and ethnicity definitions as the EEO-1. USA TODAY compared how well represented Black and Hispanic people were at these companies versus the overall labor force. For some stories, we zoomed in on Census statistics for an industry associated with companies for which we had data: five companies in tech, six banks and seven food or retail corporations. We also reviewed corporation websites for racial and gender identities of board members, confirming with company officials as needed. Explore our database of EEO-1 employment records.