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US New data shows how white top companies are, despite diversity, inclusion pledges: 5 Things podcast

16:37  18 july  2021
16:37  18 july  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast: USA TODAY reporters Jessica Guynn, Jayme Frasier and Charisse Jones chat with 5 Things podcast host Shannon Rae Green about their stories in a major project on corporate diversity, equity and inclusion. The findings show that deep racial inequities persist at all levels, particularly at the top. Dive into the stories here.

a view of a tiled wall: Black and Hispanic talent is missing at the top and concentrated at the bottom of the top U.S. companies. © Colin Smith/USA TODAY Network Black and Hispanic talent is missing at the top and concentrated at the bottom of the top U.S. companies.

This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

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Shannon Rae Green:

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Hey there. I am Shannon Rae Green, and this is 5 Things. It's Sunday, July 18th. These Sunday episodes are special. We're bringing you more from in-depth stories you may have already heard.

Shannon Rae Green:

New data collected by my colleagues at USA TODAY is illustrating very clearly how white top companies are. These are companies that you're likely to be very familiar with. Apple, Target, Facebook, Ford, to name just a few. What's crucial to note here is that these organizations have publicly committed to action and goals to improve the diversity, equity and inclusion of their workplaces. A small team of reporters at USA TODAY gathered previously undisclosed hiring records from firms in the S&P 100. I had the chance to ask my coworkers on this project questions about how they got this information. And spoiler: It was not simple at all. This information really isn't surprising. I spoke with them about what it means that these gaping inequalities in corporate America have been around for quite a long time and what experts recommend we should consider and know about them. Here's that conversation.

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Shannon Rae Green:

So, firstly, I wanted to thank each of you for coming on the 5 Things Podcast to talk about your story that published this week. It is about the deep racial inequalities that persist at all levels of major corporations and how that contributes to the racial wealth gap. I'm joined by USA TODAY reporters, Jessica Guynn, Jayme Fraser, and Charisse Jones. There's numbers in the lead sentence of your story that are frustratingly not surprising. 1 in every 97 white workers is an executive. Only 1 in every 443 Black or Hispanic workers holds these top jobs. Jayme, can you tell me about how you and your colleagues combed through hiring records and census data? What was the process here?

Jayme Fraser:

Yeah, I'd be happy to. So this all starts with a simple one page form that most companies must fill out every year. It includes a basic table that counts their workforce by race, ethnicity, and gender, breaking it into a handful of job categories like executive, professional, technician, laborer. Companies file these forms every year to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was created to help fight discrimination in the workplace. There's an ongoing lawsuit right now about whether these forms should be released as public records. They historically have been kept secret. Jessica has for years asked companies to release this employee data voluntarily as a sign of good faith and transparency. This year, she had her best success yet convincing 55 of the nation's 100 largest companies to share their worker demographics with us.

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Jayme Fraser:

My job is pretty simple after that really, she did all the work. With the help of my colleague, Dian Zhang, we turned those PDFs into a spreadsheet, and then we compared the demographics at these large companies to census data on the makeup of the nation's overall workforce by industry and these same job categories. It emphasizes to me that even a single page document can be pretty powerful when someone like Jessica pries it free from secrecy.

Shannon Rae Green:

That is so great, Jessica. Jessica, I know you've been covering race and equity issues for USA TODAY for years now. So how did you and your team decide to focus on the Standard & Poor's 100? I know the story digs into the concept that so many of these corporations on this list pledged to fight systemic racism. But as we all know, actions speak louder than words. The reporting finds that deep racial inequalities persist in these workplaces. So what does it say about these companies, their culture, and why was it that you wanted to focus on the companies that are considered so valuable in the stock market?

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Jessica Guynn:

We decided to focus on the S&P 100, because essentially it's a stock index of some of the nation's most valuable companies. So these companies are leaders in their industries and they also have influences over the choices other companies make. And many of them are the household names that we are all familiar with, whose products and services we use every day, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Target, Walmart, Bank of America, Wells Fargo. Nearly all the companies on the list made these pledges to fight systemic racism. This is important because for decades, corporations have perpetuated inequalities in hiring and pay, promotions. So what we wanted to do as a team is set out to investigate whether the employment records matched these commitments. And unfortunately, what we found is that they don't, at least not yet. Black and Hispanic workers are underrepresented at the top and in the roles of professionals, but they are concentrated in lower level roles, such as technicians and laborers and scholars talk to us about how these hierarchies in these companies tend to resemble plantations.

Jessica Guynn:

And these are really racial disparities that are the result of decades of patterns, of exclusion and discrimination. And so I think what it tells us is that these companies have a lot of work to do, which they know, and they would tell you that too. All of the 55 companies that provided us with their EEO-1 report were very open about that. And we expect the same will hold true of the 23 additional companies that have committed to us that they will also release their EEO-1 reports. And once we have those reports, we're going to update our findings, and we'll also update this project annually so that all of our readers can track the progress of these companies in closing these a pretty wide racial gaps that we uncovered.

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Shannon Rae Green:

Jessica, can you explain what an EEO-1 is for our listeners who, and including me, who may not exactly know what that stands for.

Jessica Guynn:

An EEO-1 report is a report that companies file each year with the EEOC. It lists, I believe 10 job occupations and breaks them down by workers, by race, ethnicity, and gender. They allow us and researchers to probe patterns of discrimination inside corporations.

Shannon Rae Green:

Charisse, I know that your beat has had you covering the dynamics and culture that affect people's economic opportunities, particularly in their workplaces. Can you talk to us about how these numbers and corporate leadership showing a serious lack of diversity, impact the wealth gap that has continued to widen for Black, Hispanic, and Latino families?

Charisse Jones:

Yeah. White families on average have about eight times the wealth of the average Black family, and five times the wealth of the average Latino family. And that has really serious ramifications. If you're in management, if you have an executive position, you're going to make more money, you have better benefits, you have more flexibility. So basically you're more financially secure, and you're able to do a lot more for the people that you take care of in your life, your partners, your children, and it ripples out into the community. So obviously if you make more money then you've got the emergency fund, you've got the savings account, you can buy a home and accumulate assets that you can pass on to your children. Maybe your kid doesn't rack up debt to go to school that burdens them for a lifetime because you can help pay their tuition or help them start a business.

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Charisse Jones:

And so it really impacts the financial foundation that you have to build upon. And we really saw this play out during the pandemic where you saw Black and Latino workers who tend to dominate these lower paid roles really become more vulnerable, financially and physically during the COVID-19 crisis, working in these warehouses, interacting with the public, getting ill, sometimes having to quit because of healthcare and childcare issues. And clearly, if you just don't have that much money in the bank, you don't have a cushion to fall back on when you have an economic storm take hold in the society. So it really is something that has a generational impact and that racial gap is just hardening and widening.

Shannon Rae Green:

Right. I think the pandemic has really shed light on this too. I'm going to jump ahead now to a question for Jessica. And Jessica, I'd also like to ask you about the significance of this data, the idea that the work that your team did is a little different than what has previously been published. But I'll also ask you about the data that you collected when you worked on an investigation back in 2014 that looked into tech companies diversity goals. It's cool that you have that data from 2014, because now we can compare it to what you and your team found now. Can you talk to me about that?

Jessica Guynn:

Sure. When I joined USA TODAY in 2014, one of the first major projects I worked on was looking at some of the major tech companies as a proxy for the industry, and to see where things stood for Black and Hispanic workers in particular, who have been historically underrepresented in these industries. We also were sure to look at non-technical roles because we wanted to see if the same patterns existed in non-technical roles as in technical roles. And what we found is that they did. What we find today is that very little has changed since we first started looking into this. Our data show that Black and Hispanic workers are far less likely than white employees to work in management or professional roles. And essentially this is a very young sector of the industry, and it has some of the highest paying and fastest growing jobs, and it prides itself on being incredibly innovative and different than business as usual.

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Jessica Guynn:

And yet they are reproducing the exact kind of gaping racial disparities that we see in much more mature industries like banking. And so we in this report looked specifically at the big tech companies, the five most important ones, the largest ones, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft. And we found that for example, at Amazon, there's not a single Black executive that reported directly to Jeff Bezos, who stepped down as CEO on July 5th. And his successor also has no direct reports who are Black. And we found other interesting things as well, looking at Apple where 80% of the executives are white. And we also found that at all of these companies, white employees are five times as likely to land these top jobs as their Hispanic coworkers, and seven times as likely as their Black coworkers. So it really shows how there's a lot of work for this industry in particular, one of the nation's most powerful to do, to close the racial gap.

Shannon Rae Green:

Jessica, I think that for me personally, I just thought was really interesting to look at this data that I haven't seen this closely before. I know Jayme, you really worked on this data so much over the past couple of months, is that right? Can you talk to me about what outliers there were in the data and also how these findings compare to the overall workforce?

Jayme Fraser:

Yeah, absolutely. Before I do that, I just wanted to add on to what Jessica was saying about the tech sector. Having this historical data was really interesting, but also being able to look at an industry that's relatively young. And you compare tech and it's 35% of the workers at these tech companies were women, but they make up like 48% of the overall US workforce. I mean, even established industries like banking, which is not necessarily a field you think of as being female dominated, had a greater share of women.

Jayme Fraser:

And then we also dove into the gender disparities by race, and women of color in particular were particularly underrepresented in tech across all of the S&P companies, but it was particularly poignant in tech. So I just wanted to add that too, that there are multi-dimensional layers at play here and these EEO-1 forms only have race and gender and ethnicity. There are a lot of other factors that go into making a diverse and inclusive workplace that aren't being tracked. And so that's something that companies and leaders will have to keep in mind. Some of them probably are tracking other metrics internally. Jessica, did you want to add that since I kind of riffed on something.

Jessica Guynn:

You've hit on a really important point there that I think we've neglected to mention thus far, and that is that women of color, so Black women and Hispanic women, fared worse than anyone inside these corporations, including Black men and Hispanic men. And we found that consistently throughout this kind of data analysis that we've been doing for years, and we found it really profoundly here.

Jayme Fraser:

But getting back to Shannon's question, which I'm sure she actually wants me to answer at some point. It's a bit difficult to say who is the worst when there's not really an S&P listed company that has it right. Some certainly do worse when it comes to diversity at the top of their companies, like among the executives and the managers. There are five where 85% or more of their executives are white and most of those are men. That's Amazon, top of the list, 93%. Caterpillar, US Bancorp, Costco, CVS and Accenture. They're also 4 companies where more than 80% of the middle managers are white. Duke Energy, 3M, Caterpillar, and Dow Chemical. That said even companies with diversity in their leadership ranks aren't promoting or training up people in a proportional way because the demographics at the bottom of those companies are very different from the demographics at the top.

Jayme Fraser:

Every company we reviewed has lots of work to do if they are serious about parity. No company had an equitable representation of Hispanic workers in executive positions. Only three companies had equitable representation of Hispanic workers in middle management: Colgate, Costco, and McDonald's. Black Americans were only equitably represented in the executive ranks of one company, the Bank of New York Mellon. But that business had zero Hispanic leaders. Just five companies had equitable representation of Black workers in management. But it's important to note that even at these companies where Black or Hispanic workers have reached leadership roles in numbers that are parallel with their population in the country, there are many, many more Black and Hispanic workers that are in lower paying or lower ranking jobs at these same companies. And so you have to ask, why are they not moving up in the ranks?

Jayme Fraser:

McDonald's is a great example. They had the second highest percentage of Hispanic executives, the fourth highest percentage of Black executives and dang near the lowest percentage of white executives. But even at McDonald's, white workers are more likely to hold leadership jobs than to be slinging burgers or ringing up your lunch order. Hispanic people hold 15% of executive jobs, but 35% of service jobs. Black people hold 10% of executive jobs and 23% of service jobs. Yet white people hold 30% of service jobs. And 66% of executive jobs. There is a lot of discussion in the business community about this hiring pipeline, and we can't find people who are qualified, which for one, is usually complete bull pucky. But they're overlooking their own workforce, which is this great untapped potential. And I think that's ... Some companies talk about trying to do more with promotion and bringing up the diversity that's at the bottom of their company, but I don't know that any of them have shown success with that. At least in the data we saw.

Shannon Rae Green:

Jayme, thank you for breaking that down so clearly. I think this is a great segue. We're going deep into all these different numbers and all of these areas. And I know Charisse, you focused in this overall huge package that we're publishing about corporate diversity on corporate boards. And I love the expression that you told me that, they can be used as a fig leaf. I want you to explain that to me and our listeners, and also talk about how the fact is that they're held up for public spotlight. Maybe that's what fig leaf means. But that they're not better for diverse representation.

Charisse Jones:

Yeah. I think Jayme was really touching on just kind of the smoke and mirrors that a lot of these companies engage in and corporate boards are used in much that same way, because they tend to be a little bit more diverse, they're smaller pools of people and they may be a little bit more representative. A lot of companies will point in that direction to distract you from the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of the corporate suites. But the bottom line is that they're still not doing all that great. When we were looking at our companies for this series, the 54, about a third of the workforce is white male, but more than half of the board seats at 33 of the 54 companies are occupied by white men. And so again, they might be doing a little bit better in that direction, but it's not significant. They tend to choose the same pool of people of color repeatedly to fill board seats on all of these different company boards.

Charisse Jones:

And so it's as if to say that there's only this very narrow sliver of black people and Latino people and Asian people that are worthy or deserving of having these positions of influence and leadership within these boardrooms. And a lot of these companies also do something where if they are going to diversify, they tend to pick white women more so than looking at men and women of color. So I think that one of the things that we found is that these companies just need to be proactive. Don't just put out the statement, don't just put out the message, it's not hard, ... your own workforce, as Jayme was saying and Jess was saying, you have all of these employees who are often doing ... They're the backbone of the organization and they're at lower levels that you can kind of pull up the ladder and they just have to make the decision to do that both in the corporate suite, the executive ranks and in the boardroom.

Shannon Rae Green:

Right. And I love that your point is about walking the walk, not only talking the talk. Jayme, do you have something to add on this?

Jayme Fraser:

Yeah, and part of why comparing the workforce diversity to the board diversity is important is you're also talking about relative power. Yes, the board has some leadership role, but it doesn't have the same kind of day to day power as the executives in the C suite who are deciding policies and the big vision for the company. And certainly doesn't have as much power as the folks that are in professional or technical roles, just executing that vision. And Jessica can speak to this more since she's the one who talked with more of the companies, but some companies put out statements saying things like, we're committed to recruiting more diverse applicants or people into these leadership positions. And then they would have a list of all the people who qualified as like an underserved community. And it was almost always everyone except white or Asian men.

Jayme Fraser :

So it's like, if you are a woman, you are underserved, or if you are black or Hispanic. But what that does is it obscures the differences that are within that huge group. They can hire 20 white women out of 25 and say they improved their diversity goals. So I think part of the detail that's available in these EEO-1 forms is helpful because it can empower the public to hold these companies accountable in a more granular way than we can from the typical press statements that they put out where they might obscure some details of the reality at their company.

Shannon Rae Green:

Jayme, I really like what you've said here, and Charisse too about how having these people in the room who are not white men tend to change the way the company works, the way it operates. And it's just striking me right now about our USA TODAY's coverage of Nikole Hannah-Jones not being offered tenure until the last minute at UNC Chapel Hill. And I think it speaks a lot to the reason that people want tenure in academia is for different reasons, but particularly for the ability to be seen as a leader and to then shape the place that they work. And so I just really think that that's a crucial point. Jessica, please jump in here too. I'd like to hear what you think about this.

Jessica Guynn:

I feel very privileged to be surrounded by journalists who are so on top of these issues. And Jayme pointed to something that has been really striking to me in all of the reporting that I have done over the years is that many of these companies do consider white women as underserved, and they have very ambitious diversity goals, many of which are filled by hiring and keeping more white women. And the research that I've seen shows that actually these gains by white women have come at the expense of women of color.

Shannon Rae Green:

Yes. And I am just moved to say right now that as a white woman myself, I think it's so fascinating to read about these issues and to know the role that I play. I think it's really important for all of us to examine the fact that we are all in the system and in this society. So I think it's an exciting thing, I think I get to do as part of being a human, who is alive right now, is to just take a close look at that. So I wanted to also ask about the data that you worked on in your story that surrounds what it would take for some of these companies to actually achieve parity with the US workforce. Jessica, can you talk to me about what are some measures that these companies are trying to take to meet goals, to hire and retain diverse talent? And can you also talk about, like how far that gap is for a lot of these companies in the S&P 100 to achieve that parity?

Jessica Guynn:

Well, I think Jayme can probably speak to how far they need to go the best. I do think that these companies are making a lot of good faith efforts to close the racial gap. They have been more acutely aware than ever before, after the murder of George Floyd, that they have a lot of work to do. And I think that they really are working on it. The problem is that we're talking about decades of exclusion baked into organizations, we're talking about really systemic failures and how do you fix those? And it's not just, oh, let's hire a bunch more people. It's also that you have to look at issues of retention. And you also have to look at what are majority white cultures that may feel very unwelcoming to people from underrepresented groups. I think that all of the companies that I spoke with are working on all of these things, but all of them, I think, would say that nobody has quite figured it out yet.

Jayme Fraser:

Yeah. And in terms of how far companies have to go, I'll just highlight Coca-Cola as an example at the executive level. So if Coca-Cola wanted to achieve parity with the population for its black executives, they'd have to hire 21 new black executives increasing that by 30%. If they wanted equitable representation of Hispanic workers, they would have to hire 41 new executives, almost doubling their current ranks in the company's leaderships. So there are big, big gaps here. And particularly if you wait for someone to leave and you're filling vacancies, it could take a long time to fill 62 positions. So one strategy companies have taken is to create new roles that create more paths into leadership or management sooner.

Shannon Rae Green :

And Charisse, I can see that you're wanting to add here too so please weigh in.

Charisse Jones:

Yeah. I wanted to just say that when we're talking about these companies, that in addition to setting these new numerical goals and that type of thing, which is important and good, I think that they have to recognize that this is going to take real work, that you can't just set out a metric and put a program in place to hire more folks. I mean, like Jess was saying in terms of retention and this type of thing, you have to really address the culture. And that's why you have to have voices in the room to kind of make you sensitive to the nuances that make someone uncomfortable, the microaggressions that people might deal with, that might make them say I wanted to come here, I wanted to climb the ladder, but I don't feel good here and I want to find a place where I do.

Charisse Jones:

And so there's real hard work that has to be done. And the reward at the end is great in terms of the bottom line, in terms of being more innovative and having a workplace that looks like the people you serve and the country that you live in. But they have to be prepared to really put that energy forward. And I'm not sure that all of these executives really recognize what that looks like and what that entails.

Shannon Rae Green:

Yeah. Shaping culture has so much to do with nuance. And I think that's why it's so important for goals to get specific. I would like to ask you all, if there was a certain person that you interviewed for this story where they said something that really will stay with you for a certain amount of time. Would anyone like to share?

Jessica Guynn:

I guess that the one thing that I would say is that what's been different since the murder of George Floyd is that black and Hispanic workers inside these companies used to be really afraid to speak out. Racial discrimination claims are very hard to bring. Nearly impossible. And once you speak out, you're taking a big risk with your career. I think what we have seen in the reporting for this story and more broadly in the world is that many of these people are now stepping up. They're using their voices, they're sharing their stories. I think of Charlotte Newman, who is a senior black manager at Amazon, suing her own company and saying, this is my experience. And it's not just mine, it's the experience of colleagues and in this company and elsewhere, and really representing. To go up against the most powerful companies in the world to fight for things to change is an extraordinary act of bravery.

Charisse Jones:

And Jess, I think that your interview with Ursula Burns was really amazing. Her candor, the language that she used, her passion about this. And I feel that in that same vein, even folks who've really made it to the top, who've had this incredible success like Ms. Burns, who was the first, and I guess the only black woman CEO of one of these major companies for several years, they've kind of stayed in their comfort zone. Even though they had achieved the stature, there was still this hesitation and this fear on the part of a lot of people to kind of buck the system. And to have a voice as powerful as hers really calling these companies to the carpet and talking about the broader society in which they operate with such candor, I think was really crucial and really remarkable. And I think that to have a voice like that is also somewhat unusual and really kind of letting you know that this is a moment that could be very significant and very special.

Jessica Guynn:

Absolutely. She's not the only, but she was the first black woman to run a fortune 500 company. And then this comment is totally unsuitable, probably for podcasts, but as a fellow race and equity journalists put it to me, "She has zero left to give."

Shannon Rae Green:

I think that we should include that to really reflect what's going on with this issue. Well, I just want to thank all three of you so much for joining me to talk about the package that you have been working on for quite some time. And for our listeners who subscribe to usatoday.com, you can find this package if you search for corporate diversity on USA TODAY, and Charisse, what should people search for if they want to look for your story? I know it's not a subscribers only story. Is that right?

Charisse Jones:

Right. And so it's going to be about corporate boards, but it's also an executive summary of the entire series. So you can get a little snapshot of the other stories as well. And so you can just look under my name or again, put in corporate diversity, and that will pop up for all of our readers, whether they subscribe or not.

Shannon Rae Green:

Wonderful. And we'll drop a link in our show description. Charisse, Jessica, Jayme, thank you all so much.

Charisse Jones:

Thank you.

Jessica Guynn:

Thanks Shannon.

Shannon Rae Green:

Jessica, Jayme, and Charisse each worked on multiple stories in this overall corporate diversity project. It's available at the link I've included in the episode description. If you liked this episode of 5 Things, write us a review on Apple Podcast and let us know what your favorite part was. Taylor Wilson will be back tomorrow morning with 5 Things You Need To Know For Monday. I'd love to hear from you on Twitter, where I'm at Shannon Rae Green, that's R-A-E. And thank you so much for listening.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New data shows how white top companies are, despite diversity, inclusion pledges: 5 Things podcast

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usr: 1
This is interesting!