Workforce Diversity Disclosures Hit An All-Time High

23 03 2023

Image credit: August de Richelieu/Pexels

By Mary Mazzoni from • Reposted: March 23 2023

As companies make bolder commitments to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), stakeholders are looking for more information to back up their claims. Shareholder resolutions related to racial equity more than doubled at U.S. companies last year, many focused specifically on convincing companies to publicly disclose diversity data about their workforces. 

Likewise, the vast majority of the American public — 92 percent, according to 2022 polling from Just Capital — feel it’s important for companies to promote racial equity in the workplace. And they recognize data is an important tool to do it, with 76 percent of respondents to Just Capital’s survey agreeing that disclosing demographic data is an important step toward advancing racial equity.  

While some corporate commitments related to racial equity have failed to fully materialize, the area of diversity disclosures in particular is one where companies are stepping up in a big way, with record levels of best-practice disclosure across the world’s largest public firms. 

The state of corporate diversity disclosures

What’s often missed in conversations about diversity disclosures is that most large companies already track this information because they’re legally obligated to do so. All U.S. public companies with more than 100 employees are required to submit annual reports to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor that detail workforce data, including breakdowns by race and ethnicity, sex, and job categories. 

These reports, known as EEO-1 reports, are kept confidential by government agencies unless companies choose to voluntarily disclose them — and more companies are going just that.

Nearly 75 percent of Russell 1,000 companies disclose some form of workforce diversity data, compared to 55 percent in 2021, according to tracking from Just Capital. Within that group, 34 percent of companies publicly disclosed their EEO-1 reports or similar intersectional data last year — a more than threefold increase from 11 percent a year earlier. 

“Over the past year, companies across the Russell 1,000 have made great strides toward improving disclosure of racial and ethnic workforce demographic data,” Just Capital’s director of research insights, Matthew Nestler, and his team wrote in the report. 

When Just Capital last gathered disclosure data in September 2021, nearly half of all Russell 1,000 companies made no diversity disclosures at all. By September of last year, that number had fallen to 28 percent, as more than 150 companies opted to newly disclose their diversity data.

companies making diversity disclosures about their workforce has increased rapidly since 2021
(Click here to enlarge)

Importantly, many of these companies are skipping over the less granular disclosures, such as data about overall “non-white” or “minority” employees without racial and ethnic categories or job title breakdowns, and going right for publication of their EEO-1 reports.

Given increased stakeholder interest, it’s no surprise that companies taking the lead on diversity disclosures are reaping the benefits: Companies that published their EEO-1 or similar intersectional data outperformed those that didn’t by 7.9 percent over the trailing one-year period ending in 2022, according to a companion analysis from Just Capital. 

“Publicly disclosing demographic data represents a critical initial step for companies looking to build more diverse workforces, as well as stronger returns,” Nestler and his team wrote in the report. “It holds corporate leaders to account on their DEI goals and signals commitment to advancing racial equity.”

The bottom line

This type of rapid change indicates that advocacy from investors and consumers is working: Business leaders are hearing their stakeholders loud at clear, at least within the context of diversity disclosures. And even as anti-woke crusaders erroneously blame DEI “distractions” for everything from the Ohio train derailment to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, companies don’t appear to be backing down

“The story the report tells may not be a perfect one, but disclosure is a crucial first step in holding companies accountable to change,” Nestler and his team concluded. “From there, to ensure lasting progress on DEI, corporate leaders must ultimately go beyond demographic disclosure and measure and disclose the outcomes of their DEI efforts, including whether C-Suite compensation is tied to DEI-related progress, what resources are directed toward DEI efforts, how they drive impact in local communities, and more.” 

Just Capital works to incentivize corporate behavior change on DEI issues through accountability initiatives like the Corporate Racial Equity Tracker and actionable guidance like the CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity. Other resources such as the business-led coalition CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, and its Actions Database of more than 1,900 insights, are also at hand to guide business leaders as they look to advance DEI within their workforces. 

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A New Year and New Approach to DEI at Agencies

7 02 2023

By Ashish Prashar from • Reposted: February 7, 2023

We in the advertising industry talk a lot about equity and inclusion. We design a lovely showroom that celebrates our apparent commitment to diversity in all its forms. Sadly, this is all superficial. Peel back the curtain and we see … nothing. We continue to ignore blatant racism and injustice and fail to take even the most basic steps that can drive real change.

For all the pledges we saw from agencies in 2020 to finally address systemic racism, over two years later we’ve seen little real action. Even while they complain of a “war for talent,” agencies aren’t doing enough to change how they recruit and promote talent and are struggling to make a meaningful cultural impact.

Racism and exclusion persist in the workplace, with higher turnover rates and lower promotion rates among people of color. For years, we’ve known there’s a clear business case for prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion at work beyond lip service. A McKinsey study found that the most diverse companies were 36 percent more profitable in 2019 than their least diverse counterparts.

While companies may sometimes have good intentions in coming forward with commitments after a big cultural moment, the impact falls short every time. After George Floyd’s death in 2020, company after company promised to recruit and retain more diverse talent and pledged to put cash toward DEI. But there was little accountability. Companies often don’t report their demographics, and it’s even more rare that they disclose information about spending.

A number of agencies are recruiting more diverse talent, and some are willing to share their data, with varying degrees of detail and frequency, but there is a lot more work to be done — particularly when it comes to instigating change at the top. This is where agencies can move beyond anti-bias and anti-racism training to provide things like committed executive sponsorship and mentorship of young diverse talent.

It can be difficult to hold organizations accountable when it comes to all aspects of DEI, particularly when looking beyond financial commitments and assessing what data is important when considering DEI progress.

We need to think bigger If we’re going to make meaningful change. The best DEI strategies target all parts of companies, and that starts by going beyond recruiting. Recruiting a diverse workforce is one part of DEI, but it should be viewed as a first step, not a comprehensive solution. It takes holding leaders accountable for change, something agencies haven’t seemed willing to take on. This may include difficult decisions around current leadership and has to encompass taking the impact on talent and agency culture into account when filling new leadership roles. Managers who create or enable a workplace environment that makes people of color uncomfortable should never be shoo-ins for new leadership roles.

It also means asking questions about who we work with, the kind of work we want to create, and the stories we want to share with the world. Companies often make the biggest difference when they change something within their spheres of influence. In this industry, our sphere of influence is narrative.

The creative industry has served as an arbiter of ideas and a reflection of a society’s failing or burgeoning health. Creatives have had a powerful hand in building either massive propaganda machines or culture-changing art and movements. The question about which side we’ll fall in this dichotomy can be answered by choosing to be conscious of our resources and of our responsibilities.

It is our responsibility in the creative industry to question what ideas and values we are disseminating, what stereotypes or biases we are introducing, and to whom we are giving platforms through our work. But it’s not enough just to avoid making the mistakes of the past. This industry has a responsibility to create new narratives that help tear down the biases and stereotypes it has previously helped perpetuate.

If agencies really want to make a difference in connecting with people of color, they can start by working on the issues and causes that impact and shape our lives. There is no shortage of partners in need of help addressing issues like justice reform, education and healthcare equity. Find out who you can work with to make an impact, and get to work. Talent (and prospective talent) will notice.

Make 2023 the year that your agency was truly an ally in the fight for diversity.

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