What's the current Black experience in the US workplace?
New research on the U.S. private sector confirms that the Nation's journey to an equitable workplace still has a long way to go
I do not typically feature research published by consulting companies because most of it is commercially motivated. However, there is some serious work done at the best firms that can be worth highlighting. One such effort is McKinsey & Co.’s new analysis of the Black working experience in America’s private sector. Working in collaboration with Walmart, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, PolicyLink, McKinsey’s Institute for Black Economic Mobility have written a sweeping analysis of the experience of Black workers in the U.S. private sector that is well worth a careful read.
As we all know, the issue of diversity has been a part of the corporate lexicon for several decades, with millions spent on consultants, training, and a host of related efforts to make workplaces fairer and more equitable. Unfortunately, we also know that progress has been slow, and most companies are nowhere near where they hoped to be by 2021. Patience in many corners is running low, a phenomenon brought into stark relief by last year’s Black Lives Matter movement. As the McKinsey report notes:
Placing a higher value on diversity and implementing targeted initiatives have not closed the representation gaps for Black workers. At many companies, the existence of DE&I programs has been treated as success, even as better and scaled outcomes have remained elusive. There is a continued sense that Black workers are missing out on opportunities in the private sector that hold the promise of advancement—and the rising economic security that comes with it.
The research team set out to create a foundational analysis of the Black working experience in today’s private sector, and their research was extensive (one of the benefits of having McKinsey’s reach and resources at your disposal). First, they conducted a “comprehensive benchmark analysis of Black Americans in the US private sector, across counties and industries and highlighting key gaps in representation” that drew on publicly available data through 2019 from the “Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Census Bureau, and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—among other sources—and covers the 125 million-person private-sector labor force.”
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