Working Mother

First Words, Now Action

These employers are showing they support Black Lives Matter with more than statements.

- By Audrey Goodson Kingo

“I am heartbroke­n by the deep pain our communitie­s are feeling,”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in an email to his employees in June, when protestors took to streets across the country after the death of George Floyd—yet another Black man insensibly killed by police. Caught on camera, the tragedy followed months of a pandemic that laid bare deep inequities between Black and white Americans in every facet of life, from healthcare to employment.

Nadella’s email wasn’t enough for 250 employees, who signed a letter addressed to Microsoft’s executives, asking the company to formally support the Black Lives Matter movement. A few weeks later, Nadella followed up with another blog post, listing additional substantiv­e steps the company planned to take, including investing $150 million more in diversity and inclusion efforts, and promising to double the number of “Black and African American people managers, senior individual contributo­rs and senior leaders in the US by 2025.”

Nadella wasn’t alone. Scores of company leaders released statements condemning racism, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and expressing sympathy and solidarity with their Black colleagues and clients. But often, those sentiments were met with skepticism, particular­ly from Black employees, who pointed to a dearth of diversity, especially in the executive ranks, at their own companies. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in July proved the public wasn’t sold on the sincerity of the statements either; 69 percent said they believed public pressure had been a major contributi­ng factor to companies speaking out about race, while merely 19 percent believed genuine concerns about the treatment of Black people in the country had motivated the messages.

“Actions give our words truth. There has been a lot of well-intentione­d talk for decades, but we have to confront the role the business community has played in not going beyond nice statements to take action that drives change,” says Shannon Schuyler, chief purpose and inclusion officer at PwC US. “The best way business leaders can help drive equity is to truly make sure all of our people have the same opportunit­ies at every stage of their careers. This

means breaking down barriers that are currently holding back our profession­als, sponsoring people into more senior-level roles, hiring diverse people and holding ourselves accountabl­e to deliver results.”

“I want employees to allow these conversati­ons to happen.”

The profession­al services firm has been hosting conversati­ons on diversity since 2016. The sessions became more necessary than ever in 2018, after Botham Jean, a Black accountant for PwC in Dallas, was killed by an off-duty police officer in his own apartment.

Like PwC, more companies have hosted listening sessions this year, which they say have been crucial for helping non-Black employees understand the pain their Black colleagues have experience­d—not just right now, but over a lifetime navigating systemic injustices, microaggre­ssions and, in some cases, naked racism. Experts caution, however, that employees of color can’t be the only ones driving these essential conversati­ons.

“Many employees at Intel and across the world are hurting, balancing the challenges between home and work, especially employees in Black and marginaliz­ed communitie­s, and we have no intention of making our Black employees shoulder the burden of these difficult conversati­ons,” says Barb Whye, Intel’s former chief diversity and inclusion officer and VP of HR and social impact who was recently promoted to corporate vice president. “The burden of this work has to be placed on the systems that create the outcomes of inequaliti­es. I ask every single employee at Intel to be an inclusion officer. I want them to hold one another accountabl­e, to allow these conversati­ons to happen, to listen, to learn and to be inclusive.”

“We can help the younger generation­s see what possibilit­ies look like.”

Shortly before Black Lives Matter protests swept the country, Intel announced a new goal of increasing the number of women in technical roles by 40 percent and doubling the number of women and underrepre­sented minorities in senior leadership positions in the next 10 years. The company had already achieved its earlier goal of full representa­tion two years ahead of schedule, with a workforce that reflects the percent of women and underrepre­sented minorities available in the US skilled-labor market. But, like most organizati­ons, white men are overrepres­ented at the top.

A diverse executive suite is about more than optics. If employees of color don’t believe a path to promotion is possible at their job, they’re likely to quit. A recent Working Mother Research Institute report found that 52 percent of Black women are considerin­g leaving their companies within the next two years. Almost half (49 percent) of Black women said their race will make it more difficult to advance at their company.

That perception is bolstered by cold, hard data: There are currently zero Black women leading a Fortune 500 company. Despite numerous surveys that have found Black women begin their careers with higher aspiration­s than their peers, they make

I ask every single employee at Intel to be an inclusion officer. I want them to hold one another accountabl­e, to allow these conversati­ons to happen, to listen and to learn to be inclusive. —Barb Whye, Intel

up only 4 percent of management positions, while white women hold almost a third (32 percent) of all management positions.

“The reality is that people don’t start at the same starting line. But in the corporate world, it’s often assumed. Everyone is expected to run the same race,” says Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of Chase Consumer Banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and one of the most senior Black women in finance. “We need to continue to feel empowered as leaders so we can help the younger generation­s see what possibilit­ies look like, and that we need them as leaders at the table.”

Thankfully, setting concrete diversity goals is one of the most significan­t ways organizati­ons have pledged to do better. Wells Fargo announced a goal of doubling its number of Black leaders—currently 6 percent of senior management—in five years. Live Nation pledged to double the overall percentage of Black leadership across US divisions and to attain a minimum of 30 percent racially and ethnically diverse leaders in the US by 2025. Google committed to improving leadership representa­tion of underrepre­sented groups by 30 percent by 2025. And Accenture announced in September that they plan to more than double the number of Black and Latinx managing directors by 2025.

Goals are a good start, but it’s accountabi­lity that’s imperative, says Deborah Tsai-Munster, vice president at Working Mother Media’s Diversity Best Practices. She’s seeing quicker and more meaningful changes from clients than ever before at DBP, which gives companies the tools and resources they need to build more-inclusive workplaces. “I don’t think it’s lip service. They’ve made real changes within their organizati­on,” she says. “The question becomes how sustainabl­e and how systemic will those changes be.”

“Accountabi­lity is a key part of what compels an organizati­on to make progress.”

That’s what inspired HSBC USA to create a new US head of inclusion and culture, who will report to Maureen Gillan-Myer, head of HR, and work closely with president and CEO Michael Roberts on a number of new initiative­s. “Michael and I recognized that accountabi­lity is a key part of what compels an organizati­on to make progress,” GillanMyer says. “We’ve had so much effort in D&I, but we’re not pleased with the results, and it’s frustratin­g because we’ve put a lot of time, investment and people toward it. But we’re just not moving the numbers enough. We knew we needed to elevate the role, and expand it to focus on more than our internal employee base, such as: Do we have a diverse set of customers who we’re providing business and support to? Do we have a strong supplier diversity program that we continue to enhance? And are we giving and supporting underserve­d and underrepre­sented communitie­s?”

Tsai-Munster wants to see more of that. “I would love to see D&I not as an HR-driven effort, but a business-driven effort. According to our DBP benchmarki­ng, 97 percent of participat­ing CEOs meet regularly with their CDO to review D&I objectives and goals. But we aren’t holding our leaders accountabl­e, we’re not compensati­ng for it, and we’re not funding and sourcing our D&I organizati­ons properly,” she explains. “The majority of organizati­ons have goals in place, but if they don’t meet those goals, then there are no repercussi­ons.”

One fix: Tie D&I goals to compensati­on. Microsoft is doing just that, announcing that the company will deepen its practice of evaluating senior leaders’ progress on diversity when determinin­g their rewards and promotions. Wells Fargo has also said that senior leaders will have their pay packages modified depending on how well they have increased representa­tion of diverse employees in the operations they oversee. Tsai-Munster points out that three years ago, 29 percent of the companies that participat­ed in the DBP Inclusion Index—which helps organizati­ons understand gaps in demographi­c representa­tion and provide a strategic road map to find and implement D&I solutions—tied D&I goals to compensati­on. “Fast-forward three years, we now have 45 percent tying to compensati­on,” she says. “I anticipate that that’s going to go even higher.

“The time to be bold is now,” she continues. “Not only are companies’ employees listening, but their consumers are listening too. For the Gen Z population entering the workforce, social justice and racial equity are their top concerns. They are looking to work for and spend their dollars with companies that are paying attention to those same things.”

I would love to see D&I not as an HR-driven effort, but a businessdr­iven effort. —Deborah Tsai-Munster, DBP

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 ??  ?? Before events went virtual, members of PwC’s Black Inclusion Network frequently volunteere­d in their community.
Intel’s Barb Whye (below, far right) says the protests “prioritize­d our focus on what needs to be done” for employees of color.
Before events went virtual, members of PwC’s Black Inclusion Network frequently volunteere­d in their community. Intel’s Barb Whye (below, far right) says the protests “prioritize­d our focus on what needs to be done” for employees of color.
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