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Employees say their companies aren't sticking to the promises they made on racial justice

·3 min read

As Juneteenth approaches, employees are reflecting on the commitments to racial justice made by their employers and finding them lacking.

A new survey from Benevity reveals that while nearly half of employees can remember their companies making commitments about racial justice after the murder of George Floyd, only 26% believe those commitments were fulfilled, compared with 61% of employees who can't say whether their companies fulfilled their commitments.

"I believe it is essential that businesses make meaningful investments in building diverse, inclusive workplace cultures," Lisa Lewin, CEO of General Assembly, told USA TODAY in an email. "At a minimum, when it comes to topics like racial justice or climate change, companies must 'do no harm.' "

The survey was conducted from May 24 to June 6 and spanned 1,000 U.S. employees from fortune 500 and midlevel companies.

Over 70% of employees agreed that it’s important to have difficult conversations in the workplace about racial and social justice. More than half (69%) also said they would recommend their companies to others if addressing those issues is prioritized. More than a third of employees said they would quit if their workplace doesn’t do so.

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"True social progress is not possible without the business community taking meaningful action to address the most intractable problems facing our world," Lewin said.

What companies are doing

Employees also noticed the lack of action taken by leadership, with 55% of those surveyed saying leadership addressed racial justice and equity in written or oral statements but nothing more.

Almost half (47%) said they felt that company leadership displayed the same or less amount of racial sensitivity in the past year.

In the wake of Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict in Floyd's murder, companies like Facebook, General Motors, Starbucks and Microsoft made public statements offering condolences and affirming their stance against racism.

Protest march after a Juneteenth rally at the Brooklyn Museum in New York on June 19, 2020.
Protest march after a Juneteenth rally at the Brooklyn Museum in New York on June 19, 2020.

But some, like the Las Vegas Raiders, faced backlash over social media posts or inaction.

The corporate world has long struggled with a lack of diversity in its ranks, and a report compiled by the Alliance for Board Diversity and the consultancy Deloitte recently showed that while the boards of Fortune 500 companies are improving in their diversity, that progress is still slow. These companies often tap the same pool of candidates, and of their newly appointed officials, white women greatly outnumbered people of color.

The report did show some progress, with 29 Fortune 500 companies having 60% of their boards made up of women or people of color.

Working from home

While the pandemic forced most employees into remote work, 49% of those now working from home said they would prefer to continue working that way because of the lack of inclusivity in their workplace.

Other employees, especially parents, have also expressed wishes to continue working from home and additional services to help ease struggles with child care, according to the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index. More than 9 in 10 working parents said they worried about what they were dealing with mentally, and women and people of color didn’t feel as supported by their employers as white parents.

The Benevity survey also noted that employees have a continued interest in their companies addressing these issues and others like gender inequity, LGBTQ and poverty.

Contributing: Charisse Jones, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Juneteenth: Survey on racial justice shows companies lacking

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