3 Years After George Floyd, Companies Still Struggle With DEI

Written by soulciti in partnership with Meme Styles.

It has been three years since the horrendous murder of George Floyd — and many other Black Americans in the time since. But the murder of Floyd in particular was the jarring alarm that finally awakened the nation from its collective slumber on racial injustice.

Dozens of America’s largest companies pledged to take bold and distinctive steps toward advancing racial equity in their places of work and in their communities. This historic movement embraced the moment to make a lasting impact in uprooting systemic racism to foster a more equitable future for the Black community.

However, there is little evidence that these commitments have led to meaningful change.

At the end of 2020, the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility evaluated the monumental monetary commitments from Fortune 1000 companies and institutions that had pledged to fight racial injustice. Emboldened by the movement, the world’s largest companies dedicated an impressive $66 billion, exemplifying a powerful commitment to pursuing justice and equality on a global scale. The most recent analysis of the same study found that in total, $340 billion has been allocated to fight injustice. 

Meme Styles, Founder and Executive Director of Measure.

In 2022, Just Capital launched a Corporate Racial Equity Tracker providing a comprehensive evaluation of the initiatives and accomplishments declared by the top 100 U.S. employers, with 23 metrics across six distinct facets of racial equity, empowering us to drive progress and create a more equitable future. This tracker found that these top companies still had a long way to go in the fight for justice. 

For example, only 7% disclosed their internal hire or promotion rate by race or ethnicity. Some may say, candidates who are not measured are not hired. Consequently, due to racism and the structural disregard of the disparity , the Black unemployment rate remains unjustifiably behind. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that Black workers are still more likely to be unemployed than white workers, even after controlling for education, experience, and other factors.

Despite this shameful imbalance of power, transparency, and humanity, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to support the  Black workforce, hold the corporations that made commitments to our community accountable, demand the sustainability of DEI programming and end systems of  injustice. 

So why haven’t companies made more progress on DEI? There are a number of factors at play, including:

  • Lack of integrity: So many companies approach DEI with a “bottom line” to meet and a “business case”  to fulfill. This creates a transactional foundation whereas DEI should be approached with a humanitarian lens. 
  • Lack of leadership: Many companies lack strong leadership on DEI. This is often due to a lack of understanding of the issue, or a lack of commitment from senior executives.
  • Lack of accountability: Even when companies have strong leadership on DEI, they often lack accountability metrics  to ensure that their commitments are met. This can lead to a situation where companies make lofty promises but fail to follow through on them.
  • Lack of resources: DEI initiatives can be expensive, and many companies are reluctant to invest the resources necessary to make a real difference. The solution is not to volunteer the few Black staff to lead your efforts in DEI. 
  • Lack of buy-in from employees: DEI initiatives are only successful if they have the support of all employees at all levels. However, many employees are still not convinced that DEI is important, or that their company is serious about it.

These are just some of the challenges that companies face in their efforts to improve DEI. It is clear that there is still a long way to go, but there are also some reasons for hope. More and more companies are recognizing the importance of DEI, and there is a growing movement of employees who are demanding change. With sustained effort, it is possible to create a more inclusive workplace for everyone.

Here are some specific steps that companies can take to improve DEI:

  • Publicly acknowledge and address the ways in which the company may have contributed to structural racism and benefited from the institution of it.
  • Make DEI a top priority, and pay a great DEI professional equitably to take you on an anti-oppression journey of transformation. 
  • Ensure DEI is reflected in the company’s mission, vision, and goals.
  • Set specific goals and transparent metrics for improving DEI, and track progress over time.
  • Make a concerted effort to recruit and hire people from diverse backgrounds. They should also create a workplace culture that is welcoming and inclusive of all employees. (If every candidate in your potential hiring pool looks the same, then repost the position and try again.) 
  • Provide training and development opportunities to help employees learn about DEI and how to be more inclusive.
  • Companies should hold employees accountable for meeting DEI goals. This may involve providing feedback, coaching, or disciplinary action.

By taking these steps, companies can create a more inclusive workplace for everyone. This is not only the right thing to do, it is also good for business. Studies have shown that companies with more diverse workforces are more innovative, more profitable, and more resilient to change.

Last year, Measure’s VP and I journeyed to Mr. Floyd’s memorial. It was the most powerful outpour of flowers, cards, apologies, and sorrows that we’d ever seen. The time for action is now. 

Three years after George Floyd’s death, we can no longer afford to wait.

Meme Styles is the President and Founder of the award-winning nonprofit MEASURE, and a Fellow Of the Social Science Research Council, Just Tech. In addition to being a global thought leader for community engagement strategies – Meme is a wife and mother of 4 who lives outside of Austin in Pflugerville.


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