On May 25, 2020, the world watched as officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, the Black Lives Matter movement organized over 7,750 demonstrations across the United States the following summer, with 15 million to 26 million participating. Many corporations expressed support for the social justice movement and an increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion within their own organizations.
Words of support, however, are not enough if not backed by company policy and actions. Last year, the Brookings Institution reported that the average White family is roughly 10 times wealthier than the average Black family. To achieve tangible change, companies must help close the racial wealth gap by embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
The shift from in-office to remote work provides company leaders and executives with the opportunity to make significant headway in diversifying their teams. In a 2020 report identifying eight of the most common barriers to attracting and hiring diverse candidates, WayUp – a jobs site and resource center for college students and graduates – found that Black candidates were almost twice as likely as other candidates to be unwilling to relocate for a position if there is no stipend. The opportunity to work remotely removes this barrier, enabling companies to seek out and hire diverse candidates they previously could not.
Targeted initiatives can help companies meet their diversity goals. These initiatives should focus on increasing gender and racial diversity in the workplace. A University of California, Berkeley survey found that the companies that made the most advancement in diversifying their work forces required managers to show specific diversity gains in the areas of race and gender. Companies should adopt this method of setting specific goals and creating initiatives to meet them.
“Targeted initiatives can help companies meet their diversity goals.”
Companies must diversify their leadership and boards. Often, Black people do not have a voice in executive decision-making. According to a study conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation, Black people account for only 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 3.2% executive and senior-level officials and managers, and 8% of professionals. Joseph B. Hill – a member of the Diversity Equity Excellence Practice think tank – told NBC News, “Black employees believe they aren’t viewed as high potentials for leadership positions and they don’t see a clear pathway to advance within their organizations.” To diversify leadership and boards, companies must provide diverse employees with the opportunity for upward mobility in the company and prioritize diversity when bringing in outside talent.
“Companies must provide diverse employees with the opportunity for upward mobility in the company and prioritize diversity when bringing in outside talent.”
From 2017 to 2019, PayScale found that Black men had the most significant uncontrolled pay gap compared to their White counterparts with the same qualifications. This, coupled with many Black employees saying they are not considered for promotions, shows an apparent disparity in the treatment of employees. Companies must pay people equally for equal work and provide equal opportunity to all employees. Without equal pay and equal opportunity, there is no equity in the workplace.
The Center for Talent Innovation found that 58% of Black employees indicated they experience racism in their job. There must be no tolerance for racism and sexism. This means implementing specific policies that include holding employees and leaders accountable for their behavior, whether microaggressions or blatant bigotry. Racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry make inclusion impossible.
“Racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry make inclusion impossible.“
Additionally, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that companies educate their leaders. Establishing mandatory training on unconscious bias and other inclusion-related topics, such as micro-aggressions, will ensure leaders have the knowledge needed to lead an inclusive workplace.
Black employees feel unsupported in the workplace. In 2019, the Harvard Business Review reported, “Black workers feel less supported, engaged, and committed to their jobs than their nonblack peers do” and report the lowest levels of manager and coworker support. Companies must support employees of color and listen to and address their concerns. Company managers and executives must also recognize employee accomplishments to ensure they feel valued and supported in the workplace.
The experiences of minority employees in the workplace are often vastly different from that of White employees. Companies should provide employees of color with additional support. This may include employee resource groups that serve the needs of employees from marginalized communities. The SHRM suggests encouraging employees to use supplemental support via semi-regular reminders about available company resources.
Companies should take a stance on issues of racial injustice. Publicizing a statement on systemic racism or expressing support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and other social justice movements shows employees that the company is aware of the racial problems and stands on the side of people of color and social progress.
“If employees know from the time they are interviewed that the company is a strong advocate for racial equity and equality, the employer is more likely to attract and retain talented people who are on board with that goal,” Charles Ellis Bush II, an attorney at Ice Miller’s Labor and Employment Group, told the SHRM.
Fortune Media reported that 3.2% of Fortune 500 companies share complete diversity data. Transparency also opens the door to accountability. Tim Ryan, CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers U.S., said of their transparency report, “Transparency grounds everything, and shining light on where we can improve makes tough challenges impossible to ignore.” Transparency allows companies to recognize progress, shortcomings, and provide the insight to reevaluate strategies to be more effective in achieving their goals.
Transparency will also help maintain a diverse workplace. A ZipRecruiter survey found that nearly 90% of millennials and Generation Xers say that a company’s concrete commitment to workplace diversity affects their decision to work there. The survey also found that millennials were likely to stay twice as long as their average 2.8-year tenure at a company that fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“Nearly 90% of millennials and Generation Xers say that a company’s concrete commitment to workplace diversity affects their decision to work there.”
Hill told NBC News, “It’s troubling that no matter how much or how loudly professional Blacks share that their experience is challenging simply because of their race, it is often not believed or valued by their White counterparts. And that’s where much of the problems lie.”
It is time companies listen to their Black employees. Company leaders must be intentional and thorough in creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. Though it may take years to achieve, the contribution to creating a better society and company will be worth the effort.
Bill Stratton is a Managing Director at the Washington, D.C. office of Stanton Chase and represents the firm on the AESC’s North America Diversity Council.
Chase Breaux is a Research and Business Development Intern at Stanton Chase and a passionate advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Chase is a rising sophomore at Wabash College studying political science with a minor in Black studies on a pre-law track. At Wabash, he serves in various positions – such as Alumni Committee Chairman for the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies and Vice Chairman for the Diversity and Inclusion Committee – to contribute to a safer and more inclusive atmosphere on and off-campus.