Business

Big companies track workforce diversity but won't share the results

by Jeff Green

Bloomberg

Most big companies now say that improving racial and ethnic diversity of their workforces is an important goal, particularly after a summer of protests highlighting patterns of systemic racism. Very few of them provide enough information to track their progress.

Among companies in the Russell 1000 index, 72 percent don’t disclose any racial or ethnic information about their employees, according to the preliminary results of an analysis of company disclosures by Just Capital, a nonprofit that measures corporate stakeholder performance and pushes for more gender and racial transparency at companies. Thirty nine percent disclose the gender identity of their employees.

Currently, only 4 percent of companies release the full data they are required to collect each year for the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Just Capital and others, such as Eaton Vance Corp.’s responsible-investing unit and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, are pressuring all companies to disclose that detailed information.

“When we talk to companies, they certainly like to tell us all the great stuff they are doing to promote diversity in their companies, but we have no way to evaluate that,” said Michael Garland, assistant comptroller for corporate governance and responsible investment for the New York City Office of the Comptroller, who spoke Monday on a panel discussion organized by Just Capital.

The comptroller has asked more than 65 companies to release EEOC data by the end of August. “We have no way to tell what’s real and what’s not,” he said, “so give us the numbers so we can actually assess your performance.”

The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May and the exponentially higher death rate for Black people from the coronavirus in the U.S. has put pressure on big companies to be more active in addressing systemic racism, including in employment. After protests in Minneapolis spread across the U.S. in late May and early June, about 90 percent of the 100 largest public companies in the U.S. made statements of support and pledged financial donations totaling more than $2.8 billion, according to a Bloomberg analysis of corporate actions.

Every company with more than 100 employees provides data on the racial and gender breakdown of 10 different job classifications — with a comparison to the previous year — or about 180 different data points. The data is private unless companies opt to release it.

About 37 companies among the Russell 1000 now release the one-page report, or the data available in it, according to Just Capital’s analysis as of July 23. Among the preliminary findings about those companies:

More than half are in the tech sector. On average, 36 percent of workers at the companies identify as women. On average, just 15 percent of the workers identify as Black or Latinx, the gender-neutral term for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America. On average, just 3 percent of women at these companies identify as Black and 4 percent as Latinx. Representation of Black and Latinx women is even lower in the tech sector. “We know it’s not propriety information,” said Mary Morris, investment officer for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, at the panel. “It’s not information companies should not be disclosing. If they disclose the information, they can put it into context.”

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