If things continue the way they are going in the American workplace, Black workers won’t reach parity for 95 years, according to a new report.
An inaugural report from global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company indicates that in addition to systemic barriers, job location may hinder the advancement of Black employees.
The report, “Race in the Workplace: The Black Experience,” polled 24 large companies to examine why Black workers are largely concentrated in frontline and entry-level jobs, and not truly represented in management.
“We examined the entire U.S. private sector employment, which consists of about 225 million people who work in the private sector, of whom about 15 million are Black workers,” James Manyika, chairman and director of McKinsey Global Institute and senior partner at McKinsey & Company, said during a recent virtual press conference.
Despite Black Lives Matter protests catching the attention of corporate America and pledges made by companies to promote diversity, not much has changed in the nine months since the protests started in May 2020.
“Black employees are seeing companies saying the right things, making public announcements and monetary commitments to diversity and inclusion, but the execution is lacking,” McKinsey partner Monne Williams said in the report, released on Feb. 22.
The lack of workplace equality is widespread. Almost 60 percent of the Black labor force lives in Southern states. More specifically, about 10 Southern states. Just four states — Texas, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina — account for approximately 30 percent of Black workers, according to the report.
“We went not only state by state, but we also examined the roughly 3,149 counties in the United States to better understand the state of the labor markets in each of those counties and to try and understand what representation participation looks like across those counties,” Manyika said.
Researchers found that along with Black workers being overrepresented in low-job growth geographical areas, they are overrepresented in frontline jobs. About 45 percent of Black private-sector employees work in industries that have a large frontline or essential worker presence, including accommodation and foodservice, healthcare, and retail, HR Dive reported.
There exists a major salary gap along racial lines. Almost half (43 percent) of Black private-sector workers earn less than $30,000 per year, in comparison to 29 percent of the rest of the private sector, the report found. Transportation is the highest-paying industry for Black workers in at least 21 states.
Black workers are also left behind in growing industries and underrepresented in many of the fast-growing, high-wage sectors such as financial services, professional services, and IT.
But there were some bright spots. The faster-growing and higher-paying industries for Black employees, such as transportation, may hold future better workplace opportunities, HR Dive reported.
Still, real progress will require a “system-level change, an examination of our broader society, and active collaboration among companies and other stakeholders,” according to the report.
Even though there has been a lack of progress, there are ways employees can hold their companies accountable for workplace diversity and workplace advancement, said James Detert, a professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and the author of the forthcoming book, “Choosing Courage: The Everyday Guide to Being Brave at Work.”
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The protests of 2020 brought a level of energy, activism, and reckoning that was different from anything that had happened in the past, Detert told the Harvard Business Review. “The fact that (the protests) occurred amidst a pandemic that has disproportionately hit minority groups, and that has revealed the effects of systemic racism, made people hopeful that this time would be different.”
Employees can push companies in the right direction, said Tiffany Jana, founder and CEO of TMI Consulting and co-author of “Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships across Differences.” “You can be a catalyst for change. You can push your organization to go from inadvertent corporate blackwashing to leadership and accountability.”