How Big Tech Allows the Racial Wealth Gap to Persist

Tech companies talk a big game about racial equity. But inside their offices it’s a different story.

Since President Biden signed a law last week making Juneteenth a federal holiday, there has been no shortage of corporate displays of good will. Google devoted its famous “doodle” to the holiday, and many companies have declared that they will observe Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

With Republicans in state governments across the country introducing bills and passing laws that try to limit the teaching of racism’s role in American history, tech firms and other major corporations have joined Democrats in condemning them.

But what’s actually going on inside these companies? A report released last week by the Conference Board, a corporate research firm and business group, showed that while conversations about confronting race and racism might be on the rise, actual workplace equity isn’t.

The wage gap along racial lines is increasing, particularly “in industries, occupations and locations where the fastest growth in high-paying jobs is taking place,” the report’s authors found. Chief among those industries, they wrote, is Big Tech.

The gap in earnings has widened over the past decade: Black men with bachelor’s degrees earned 24 percent less than degree-holding white men in 2019 — a marked decline from 2010, when the wage deficit was 18 percent. For Black women, the difference in wages with white men was 26 percent — also significantly worse than the number from 2010.

Big Tech has contributed heavily to the trend: While Black people make up 13 percent of the U.S. labor force, just 4 percent of top earners in the tech sector were Black in 2019, less than the already low 6 percent in other industries. At Google, Black employees made up only 4 percent of the work force last year.

Though the tech sector has produced many millionaires over the past decade, relatively few have been Black. “If you look at the percent of Black workers in the tech industry, their share has not grown,” Gad Levanon, the founder of the Labor Market Institute at the Conference Board and the lead author of the report, said in an interview. “If anything, it is shrinking.”

A separate study last year by RateMyInvestor examined nearly 10,000 tech entrepreneurs and 135 venture capital firms. It found that among founders of tech projects who had received venture funding, just 1 percent were Black.

While tech firms have taken steps toward increasing transparency on racial inequities in their workforces, particularly since the spike in Black Lives Matter organizing in 2014, they have taken few tangible steps to fix the problem, said Y-Vonne Hutchinson, a workplace diversity expert and the founder of the diversity and inclusion firm ReadySet.

“There has been plenty of opportunity for tech to self-regulate since these conversations have started in 2014 — it just hasn’t done a good job,” Ms. Hutchinson, whose forthcoming book is called “How to Talk to Your Boss About Race: Speaking Up Without Getting Shut Down,” said in an interview.

“We’re still seeing incredible disparity — and in some cases, decreases — in representation at the managerial and executive levels at tech companies,” she said. “And that for sure is driving the racial wealth gap.”

Still, this gap hasn’t been a major point of inquiry during any of the high-profile hearings recently in which tech chief executives have testified before Senate and House committees. Ms. Hutchinson said that with bipartisan conversations picking up in Washington about regulating the tech industry and antitrust enforcement, what’s been missing is an accompanying focus on advancing racial equity.

A member of the Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School, Ms. Hutchinson said that the Biden administration had an opportunity to enforce anti-discrimination protections through the Labor and Justice Departments.SIGN UP FOR ON POLITICS WITH LISA LERER: A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.Sign Up

“We hear the conversations about racism and tracking diversity, equity and inclusion, and how tech companies are still very homogeneous, yes,” she said. “And we sometimes even get the conversations about how that impacts the platforms that they build, and the broader impacts that they have.”

She added: “But we really stop short when we look at: What protections do we have for workers and tech companies, and how far are we willing to go to enforce anti-discrimination legislation?”

Ms. Hutchinson called for more “boots on the ground to review claims,” pointing out that “the enforcement arms at the Department of Labor have been gutted” under the Trump administration, leaving the agency unable to fully consider many discrimination claims.

Not until 2014 did Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft begin publishing diversity reports, let alone set hard targets for improvements. Five years later, Wired magazine undertook an investigation to see how much progress the companies had made. It found that Apple, Microsoft and Google had all increased Black employment companywide by less than 1 percent.

There are also stark gender divides at tech companies, with degree-holding white women making 19 percent less than white men with bachelor’s degrees. But Wired found that tech firms had enjoyed much greater success during that five-year period in addressing gender imbalances than they had in confronting the racial disparity.

Amazon hasn’t produced diversity reports for its tech team, but its website shows that while 31 percent of its work force last year was Black, just 7 percent of corporate employees and 4 percent of senior leaders were.

These statistics are driven by structural inequities, both in terms of access to education and the personnel and hiring structures at the companies themselves.

The Conference Board report pointed out that one driving factor for a lack of diversity in the tech sector was the fact that many of its top companies had chosen to open their offices in cities and suburbs with relatively small Black populations, including Seattle, San Jose and Austin.

It found that when companies opened new branches in more heavily Black cities, such as Atlanta and Washington, they were more likely to hire Black workers throughout their ranks.

“A lot of the areas of the fastest growth in tech are areas with very few Black people in them, like Seattle or Austin, Texas,” Mr. Levanon said. “So that is making it more difficult for tech companies in those areas — they are almost by definition less likely” to hire Black workers.

With companies now relying more heavily on remote work, particularly among white-collar employees, the report’s authors saw an additional opportunity to reach a more diverse work force through remote hiring, even for companies in Big Tech’s heavily white and Asian hub cities.

Ms. Hutchinson said that at a fundamental level, there was a need to address the role of racism in everything, including educational opportunities and decisions on who is hired and promoted. “When it comes to this report and these discussions in general, we only get to the right policy initiatives if we’re specific about the problem,” she said. “Historically we haven’t been really good, and we haven’t seen a vested societal interest in fighting racism in the workplace. We have to be able to talk about that.”

This tech exec left Capital One to pursue diversity and inclusion efforts last June. We checked in, one year later

Julie Elberfeld is now serving as interim CTO at Opportunity@Work, and exploring collaboration among technology companies. She offers perspective on progress, and what’s needed to make

For former Capital One CIO Julie Elberfeld, the shift from engineer to tech diversity advocate is more of a natural fit than you might think.

“Technologists are problem-solvers,” Elberfeld told “I think my approach to diversity and inclusion has been a little different than somebody maybe from a traditional human resources background, because I’m an engineer. My mind thinks differently about the problem.”

After a decade-long stint at the McLean, Virginia-based banking leader, where she also was an executive lead and senior vice president (and 2020 RealLIST Connectors honoree), Elberfeld left the company in June to work on diversity and inclusion in the tech industry full-time. Since last summer, she’s developed a small portfolio of clients for strategic D&I advising at a senior level, delivered a series of diversity-focused talks, and engaged in general work aimed at getting companies to rethink requirements for a four-year degree. In September, she started at downtown D.C.-based nonprofit Opportunity@Work, and is now serving as the org’s interim CTO.

After leaving Capital One, Elberfeld said she wanted to take some time to understand the root cause of a lack of diversity in the tech industry. Even after years of work advocating for inclusion efforts as the D&I lead, she felt like she was quoting the same numbers in 2020 that she had been in 2014.

“Technology is one of those fields that has tremendous amounts of open roles, and yet at the same time, is not creating the on-ramp and is kind of famous for including pedigree hiring practices in the way that talent is sourced into tech,” Elberfeld said.

Elberfeld was not alone in her push for change. At the same time she left, many large corporations and tech companies were making large commitments to increase diversity and inclusion efforts in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests that followed a string of police killings of Black Americans. Although it has already been a year, Elberfeld said it’s too early to measure the progress of those initiatives, given the complexities of the problem.

“I firmly believe that the best future is going to be one that’s very impacted by technology, but needs to be very thoughtfully created by a very diverse workforce that represents all of us.”JULIE ELBERFELD

“You have to go from that intent to strategizing about how you actually create action…It is a journey and it really takes cycles to go through breaking down the problem into root cause and figuring out where you can focus, and then applying action into servicing the results that you actually want to see,” Elberfeld said. “And those things take time.”

But there is still much to be done across the industry. Elberfeld said that she’s seen how many organizations and businesses have made the mistake of trying to be better than competitors or have better numbers than the previous year. She said that in order for real change to occur, industry leaders need to come together to discuss potential solutions, instead of working against each other or attending events that aren’t engaging and encouraging collaboration.

“I didn’t see the collaboration that could have occurred where CIOs and CTOs could come together and say, ‘Look, all boats rise if we change the diversity mix of this industry, all boats rise if we’re more welcoming and we invite more people into this career,’” Elberfeld said. “We could fill our open jobs, have a more diverse and innovative workforce if we all work together. What are the big ideas that we could fund collectively that could really move the needle?”

Once her time as interim CTO is complete, Elberfeld said she’s looking to shift her focus towards being an instigator of the collaboration she’s craving. She added that she’d like to spend some time thinking about her assets as a technologist, and how she’s best suited to work on diversity issues and encourage people to come together for problem-solving.

“It ultimately has such an impact on the quality of technology that we’re creating for the future,” Elberfeld said. “I firmly believe that the best future is going to be one that’s very impacted by technology, but needs to be very thoughtfully created by a very diverse workforce that represents all of us.”

VC Pledged to ‘Do Better’ on Diversity. It’s Barely Changed

The Black Lives Matter protests drew sympathetic public statements from investors in 2020. One year later, signs of progress are harder to find.

IT’S NO SECRET that the venture capital industry, for as long as it’s existed, has been overwhelmingly white. Last summer, as the murder of George Floyd focused national attention on racial inequalities in the US, firms seemed committed to changing that. “Black Lives Matter,” the firm Benchmark tweeted last May. “Change starts with each of us holding ourselves accountable and taking actions towards a better, more just world,” tweeted Sequoia. A few firms came out with concrete pledges, or funds earmarked for entrepreneurs of color: Andreesen Horowitz put up $2.2 million to start an accelerator program targeting founders who “lack the typical background and resources,” and Softbank set aside $100 million to invest in Black, Latino, and Native American founders. Mostly, though, promises were vague. “We can, and will, do better,” tweeted Kleiner Perkins.

Some in the industry found last summer’s statements hollow, or akin to “diversity theater.” But in the past year, VCs say that the conversations about race have continued, even if visible progress remains slow.

On diversity matters, the industry remains in the “planning phase,” according to Frederik Groce, a partner at Storm Ventures and cofounder of BLCK VC, a nonprofit that supports Black investors. “I do think we’re beginning to see more clear focus on these issues by firms,” he says. “They’re still trying to figure out the structured plan, but people are at least having those conversations in a much more detail-oriented way.”

Venture capital firms have historically been slow to diversify their workforces. According to the latest VC Human Capital Survey, a biannual report compiled by the National Venture Capital Association, Venture Forward, and Deloitte, only 4 percent of VCs are Black, up from just 3 percent in 2018. Latinos represent 4 percent of investment professionals, down from 5 percent in 2018. (Asian and Pacific Islander employees, meanwhile, held 19 percent of investment positions in the survey—a higher percentage compared to the overall US working-age population.) What’s changed, though, is the number of firms with diversity, equity, and inclusion plans: The NVCA found that about 40 percent of firms had such strategies in place in 2020, compared to a third in 2018. More firms also created DEI-focused recruitment programs: 33 percent of firms surveyed by the NVCA had formal programs in 2020, and 74 percent had informal programs.

The lack of diversity in VC firms can also affect the diversity in their portfolios. In 2020, Black and Latino founders received just 2.6 percent of venture funding, according to data from Crunchbase. A number of funds led by Black investors, like Harlem Capital and Backstage Capital, focus specifically on founders from underrepresented backgrounds. But those have barely made a dent in the overall funding landscape. In a survey of venture capitalists by Morgan Stanley last fall, two-thirds of VCs said that the Black Lives Matter Movement had affected their investment strategy, and 43 percent said that investing in founders from multicultural backgrounds had become a “top priority” for their firms. But the survey also found that “traditional VCs are still less likely than women or multicultural VCs to see the value of investing in companies founded by diverse entrepreneurs.”

Alejandro Guerrero, a partner at Act One Ventures, says investors are now more open to talking about inclusion at the cap table. Last summer, he added a new clause to all of Act One’s term sheets, stipulating that before a funding round closes, the investor and founder will work to include underrepresented groups of people at the cap table. One year later, more than 50 venture capital firms have adopted Guerrero’s “diversity rider” in their own deals.

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The language isn’t meant to be strictly enforceable, but rather to introduce a conversation that investors usually don’t have. In other words, it’s pretty toothless, something Guerrero acknowledges. “The diversity rider is not a silver bullet,” he says, “but it is a framework.” Talking about how white the industry is can be awkward, which is why Guerrero thinks firms need to standardize a diversity check in each deal. “Sometimes it’s difficult to find a moment for like, when do we bring this up, how do we bring this up?”

Industrywide, however, there’s still a long way to go. “Every time there’s a conversation about how there are people who have been left out, there are other people who just want to move on,” he says.

Brian Dixon, a partner at Kapor Capital, wrote a blog post last summer encouraging firms to look beyond their own networks to hire talent, including partners. “If you do not publicize the jobs that are available at your venture firm, then you are intentionally being exclusionary,” he wrote. The blog struck a chord with the VC firm First Round, which held an open call for its latest partner search. It ended up hiring its first Black investment partner, Meka Asonye, this year.

Groce says he has seen concerted efforts to recruit Black VCs at the junior level. BLCK VC launched a program called the Black Venture Institute in 2020, which has now trained more than 100 operators on how to make venture and angel investments. A separate program, called Breaking Into Venture, is designed to train would-be Black investors on the basics of crafting an investing thesis, sourcing deals, and performing due diligence. Groce says 70 percent of people in that program have secured jobs as analysts or associates at venture funds.

Other initiatives aim to provide support to a diverse set of emerging fund managers. Screendoor, a new $50 million investment vehicle backed by ten general partners at prominent VC firms, will provide capital to a class of underrepresented investors who are raising their first institutional fund. “Waiting for today’s venture capitalists to embrace diversity will take too long,” the partners wrote in a blog post. “Our goal isn’t just to raise funds, but to help build lasting firms.”

Programs like these aim to support and grow a new class of investors. But the industry has a long way to go, especially at the partner level. “The reality is that there are only 34 Black investors that can write a $3 million check,” says Groce, based on BLCK VC’s data. “That’s a seed round.”

Wealth requirements placed on investors are another barrier to entry in the field. Most venture firms require a “GP commit,” meaning that between 1 and 5 percent of the committed capital comes from the fund’s general partners. The requirement is meant to ensure that partners have skin in the game, but also reserves power in venture capital to those with the highest amount of wealth. Similarly, angel investors have long been required by the SEC to meet income and wealth criteria that exclude all but the wealthiest people. And in the US, the wealthiest people tend to be white: The net worth of a typical white family in 2016 was nearly 10 times greater than a Black family, according to research from Brookings. Racial disparities, discrimination, and wealth inequality feed off each other, exacerbating problems in so many facets of American life, including VC.

Some investors have turned to nontraditional platforms to help close the racial funding gap. Clarence Wooten, a longtime entrepreneur and investor, created the venture studio Revitalize last year to “change the complexion of tech” by investing specifically in Black founders at very early stages. The firm leverages equity crowdfunding platforms, like Republic, as a way to diversify the cap table. Those platforms let people invest small checks into startups, which Wooten says can help Black founders engage their communities, as well as help those communities in turn to benefit from their success. “We don’t just want to make wealthy people wealthier,” says Wooten. “That’s why we’re bullish on crowdfunding. We want to democratize wealth-building opportunities.”Most Popular

Venture firms have also looked to engage the Black community in other ways, like using them as scouts, who work outside of a fund to source new investments. Scouting programs give people who are not yet investors a chance to build their track record and work their networks, while learning some of the ins and outs of the industry. BLCK VC recently launched a Scout Network, in partnership with Sequoia and Lightspeed, two of the bigger names in VC. Again, it’s not a magic bullet, but Groce says even that kind of institutional support is new. “A year ago, we didn’t have many venture firms backing our work.” Now that’s starting to change.

Taking stock of the Venture Capital industry’s progress on diversity, equity and inclusion

Let’s be clear: The venture capital industry has lacked diversity. The good news is the industry is working to improve itself.

To begin with, as an industry, venture capital can only improve what we measure. In 2016, we set out to develop a rigorous methodology for tracking progress on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in venture capital, and to measure and benchmark those data through our biennial VC Human Capital Survey.

The goals of the survey — powered by the National Venture Capital Association, Venture Forward and Deloitte — are to collect demographic data on the VC workforce across all firm types, sizes, stages, sectors and geographies, as well as trends on firm talent management and recruitment practices. We’ve learned that progress can be slow and seem discouraging, but we’ve also captured evidence that diversity (and firm practices to advance diversity) is increasing in some areas, even as other areas have unfortunately not seen the same pace of change.

We fielded the survey in 2016, 2018 and 2020, and released the outcomes of the third edition last month, featuring data (as of June 30, 2020) collected from 378 firms, a marked increase from 203 participating firms in 2018. Furthermore, more than 145 firms signed the #VCHumanCapital pledge to publicly commit to submitting their DEI data.

At a high level, the data showed that improvements in diversity among investment partners have largely been driven by the hiring and advancement of female investors, while there has been little progress in the equitable representation of Black or Hispanic investment partners.

However, the demographic composition of junior investment professionals reflects greater diversity and wider adoption of diversity-focused talent management and recruitment practices suggest some cause for optimism. The industry still has a long way to go, but here are some of the key insights and changes we identified from the latest survey.

Intentionality associated with improved diversity

More firms are explicitly assigning responsibility for promoting diversity and inclusion internally — 50% of firms have a staff person or team tasked with this responsibility (compared with 34% in 2018 and 16% in 2016). Simultaneously, diversity and inclusion strategies have become more widespread; 43% of firms have implemented a diversity strategy (against 32% in 2018 and 24% in 2016), while 41% have an inclusion strategy (versus 31% in 2018 and 17% in 2016).

This intentionality translates to improved diversity outcomes. Firms with dedicated DEI staff, strategies and programs achieve greater gender and racial diversity on investment teams and among investment partners. The increased emphasis on DEI is also a broader ecosystem trend. More firms report that limited partners and portfolio companies have requested their DEI details over the past 12 months.

Encouraging signs in talent recruitment and development

Venture firms are relatively small and turnover is generally low, but 21% of firms in 2020 reported their number of senior-level investment positions had increased, while 43% said their number of junior-level positions had expanded. Meanwhile, the demographic composition of junior investment professionals reflects higher gender and racial diversity, a positive leading indicator for the diversity of future investment partners.

As overall DEI strategies have become increasingly widespread, more firms have also developed DEI-focused recruitment and hiring programs — 33% of firms have formal programs, while 74% have informal programs, both reflecting steady increases from 2016. Firms were also more likely to report that they typically seek external candidates for open positions than they did in 2018.

However, firms continue to largely rely on internal networks for recruitment, which often encourages homogeneous hiring outcomes. Between the 2018 and 2020 surveys, there was little change shown in the use of narrow recruitment methods to find external candidates; notifying peers in the VC industry (78%) and notifying the firm internally (59%) were the strategies cited most often. The exception was posting on third-party websites like LinkedIn or in newsletters, a strategy reported by 54% of firms in 2020 (a substantial increase from 37% in 2018), which presents one avenue to reach a broader audience of candidates outside of existing networks.

Assessing inclusion remains a challenge

Once talent has come on board, inclusive culture and retention become key metrics of DEI progress. More firms are implementing programs dedicated to leadership development, mentorship and retention, with about two-thirds reporting informal versions of such programs (20 percentage points higher than in 2016) and 20% of firms reporting formal programs.

Assessing inclusion through the VC Human Capital Survey is challenging because we survey one representative per firm, and one person cannot speak to the degree of inclusion felt by others. However, we added a new question to the 2020 survey to gauge how firms themselves are assessing inclusion. While 41% of firms reported having an inclusion strategy, only 26% said they conduct surveys of their employees to assess inclusion.

Subjective factors remain a key consideration in promotions

Well-structured, consistently applied policies for career advancement are critical to ensuring that diverse talent reaches the most senior decision-making levels of the industry. About 20% of firms reported having formal DEI programs focused on promotion (up from 5% in 2016), while 65% of firms have informal programs (compared with 39% in 2016).

Although DEI programs focused on the promotion of employees are more widespread, subjective factors remain a key consideration for promotion decisions, which can lead to unequal and biased outcomes.

Almost all firms reported that “contributions to the performance of the fund” (90%) and “deal origination” (82%) were very important or important factors in considering promotions. However, the factor most often rated highly was “soft skills,” with 94% of firms saying it was very important or important. These types of subjective factors present significant opportunity for unconscious bias to creep in and can detract from the weight given to objective measures more demonstrably relevant to performance.

Maintaining momentum

The results of the third edition of our survey are timely, coming on the heels of a year in which social justice and racial equity have been the subjects of sharp national focus, policymakers have sought to increase access to capital for underserved communities, and the VC industry has shown a renewed focus on DEI. The survey shows where the VC industry’s efforts should be focused and also serves as an important reminder of the intersectional needs of DEI-focused initiatives.

The data show that progress within one demographic element can be more nuanced when considering people who represent multiple marginalized communities (e.g., the percentage of investment partners who are women has steadily increased, but the percentage of investment partners who are women of color has not).

The pace of DEI progress has been slow and uneven in some areas, but there are reasons for optimism. On April 6, NVCA, Venture Forward and Deloitte hosted a discussion with industry leaders to further examine the latest survey results and to address DEI challenges, opportunities and strategies for the industry. More firms are prioritizing these constructive conversations, both within their firms and publicly with industry peers. More firms are acting in a collaborative spirit, adopting thoughtful and concrete DEI strategies and acting with intentionality and urgency.

If the industry can continue to build upon this momentum and commitment around DEI efforts, we can reach a tipping point that will translate to meaningful progress reflected in future editions of the survey.

The top 6 companies for LGBTQ employees

Diversity and inclusion has been a top priority for employers, especially as younger generations dominate the workforce and demand greater responsibility from their employers in promoting equality.

However, despite greater acceptance and recognition of the LGBTQ community, the workplace is still an isolating place for many. About 46% of LGBTQ workers say they are closeted at work, according to data from the Human Rights Campaign, and 53% of LGBTQ employees say they occasionally hear workplace jokes about lesbian or gay people.

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Employers can provide safer and more accepting work environments for their LGBTQ employees with resources and support groups, and provide allyship training for their colleagues. For example, Liberty Mutual Insurance offers an ESG called Pride@Liberty, where employees can come together to support one another and create an environment where LGBTQ employees feel they can be their authentic selves at work. There are also resources for their colleagues to learn how to be allies.

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“Creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where employees feel that they belong is a business imperative,” says Mariana Fagnilli, vice president of the Global Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Liberty Mutual. “We have made great strides during the past several years to ensure that our LGBTQ community feels valued and that they belong.”

Many other employers have launched resource groups, committed to inclusive hiring practices and partnered with outside organizations to support their LGBTQ team members. Glassdoor compiled the most inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ employees.


The tech giant has a number of partnerships with organizations that work to protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination. The company also promotes LGBTQ inclusion in its marketing materials. Google has several ERGs dedicated to the LGBTQ community.

“The Gayglers lead the way in celebrating Pride around the world, but also informs programs and policies, so that Google remains a workplace that works for everyone,” the ERG says on its website.


The furniture retail company has made diversity and inclusion a main part of its mission. More than half its workforce is made of minorities and 47% of its employees are women, according to Glassdoor. Additionally, in 2019 the company celebrated its International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia as a way to stand up for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

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“We believe in creating a work environment where all co-workers feel welcomed, respected, supported and appreciated, no matter who they are or where they come from. At IKEA, this means building collaborative ways of working and practicing inclusive behaviours every day,” the company says on its website.


The tech goliath promotes LGBTQ pride and inclusivity through its ERG GLEAM.

“Global issues including the coronavirus pandemic, systemic racism and targeted violence have exacerbated the inequities the LGBTQ community already faces, making it all the more important to have a candid conversation. When we speak, people react. A dialogue can lead to understanding, and understanding can lead to change,” Microsoft says on the GLEAM website.


Over 7% of Slack’s workforce identify as LGBTQ, according to the company’s 2019 diversity report. The messaging software company offers an employee resource group for its LGBTQ population and provides support to employees who wish to openly identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming.

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“Since Slack was founded six years ago, we’ve been committed to embedding diversity, engagement and belonging in our hiring practices and workplace culture,” the company says on its website. “This is central to our company values, and we continue to prioritize these efforts. As companies around the globe rapidly transition to remote work, we remain committed to ensuring that the diversity of our customers is reflected in Slack’s own teams.”


The tech giant has pledged to hire a more diverse workforce. Half of the company’s new hires are from underrepresented groups, according to Glassdoor. The Human Rights Campaign has named Apple a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality for more than 15 years and the company has advocated for LGBTQ rights through partnerships with organizations including The Trevor Project, as well as the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

Read MoreWhy support for LGBTQ+ employees must extend beyond Pride Month

“On many fronts, Apple supports the ongoing and unfinished work of equality for diverse and intersectional communities, and we want to provide every opportunity to celebrate and honor this history during Pride season,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a release.

The top 20 Fortune 500 companies on diversity and inclusion

More and more companies and CEOs are learning that a strong business is one that includes people with disabilities as well as diversity in race, gender, and cultural backgrounds, and business leaders across industries have made pledges to become more diverse and inclusive.

The reality: More than talk is needed.

Fortune partnered with Refinitiv to bring in data, and this year’s Fortune 500 list includes Measure Up, a ranking of the most progressive companies in diversity and inclusion. Using Refinitiv diversity and inclusion data and figures sourced from public disclosures, Refinitiv and Fortune were able to see which companies were the best at addressing 14 key metrics, including the percentage of minorities on the board, the percentage of employees that are women, and the percentage of employees with disabilities, among others.

The numbers were sourced from 2020 data, when available, or 2019 data at the earliest. Sixteen companies voluntarily contributed their data to Measure Up for at least one of the 14 key metrics, and 14 companies voluntarily contributed their data for any of the four minority data measures. The rest of the data was sourced from public disclosures or wasn’t available.

Although an increasing number of companies are publishing data on diversity and inclusion, in the Fortune 500, the sample size is still small. Refinitiv found that at least 256 of the 500 companies on the list had published some sort of racial and ethnic data last year, but only 22 companies published a full breakdown of the percentage of minorities in their companies for four categories of minority group: Black, Hispanic, Asian, and other. These companies also reported metrics for representation in management and on the board, as well as for their racial pay gap.

Readers will now have the chance to filter and compare companies on the Fortune 500 by their Measure Up ranking.

Top 20 companies with best diversity and inclusion numbers overall:

  1. Microsoft
  2. Centene
  3. Target
  4. Gap
  5. Biogen
  6. Intel
  7. Verizon Communications
  8. Allstate
  9. PVH
  10. Bank of America
  12. Nike
  13. Wells Fargo
  14. Visa
  15. Bank of New York Mellon
  16. Progressive
  17. Citigroup
  18. Anthem
  19. Walgreens Boots Alliance
  20. Walmart

The top ranking company in diversity and inclusivity this year was Microsoft. The Redmond, Wash.-based tech and software company had the most complete diversity and inclusion numbers of the companies analyzed.

The tech company provides day care services and has an employee resource group voluntarily formed by employees. The company also set targets to be achieved on diversity and inclusion and has a policy regarding gender diversity and a policy to promote diversity and inclusion in its workforce.

When it comes to racial and gender diversity, Microsoft also tops the list. According to data from 2020, the company’s board was made up of 39.7% of racial and ethnic minorities and its workforce as a whole was 49.8% racial or ethnic majorities. Based on the same data, Microsoft’s managers also consisted of 41.3% racial or ethnic minorities.

Though the tech giant was one of the best in its racial diversity statistics, it is lacking in terms of gender diversity. The company reported 2020 data showing that just 28.6% of its employees were women and 26.3% of its managers were women.

Through Measure Up, Refinitiv and Fortune are highlighting the businesses progressing the most in diversity and inclusion efforts. It’s our hope that in the future more companies will lead by example in improving their numbers and transparency when it comes to this important issue.

The Measure Up program is ongoing, and we encourage companies of all sizes to participate and contribute. All contributions should be submitted via the Refinitiv ESG contributor tool, and more details are available at

Top 50 most diverse companies? Only 3 tech firms make the list

Just three tech companies made it onto DiversityInc’s list of companies championing diverse workforces.

DiversityInc has released the 2021 version of its “2021 Top 50 Companies for Diversity” list, with companies like Hilton, MasterCard, and Toyota topping the list. 

But the list was noticeably devoid of most major tech companies, highlighting a longstanding criticism of the tech industry as a whole that it is largely homogenous at almost every level

Accenture, Comcast, and ADP were all in the top 10 section of the list but no other tech companies were featured. Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO of ADP, said drastic shifts in today’s world exposed a heightened need to address diversity, equity, and inclusion at work and beyond among the company’s 58,000 employees. 

Rodriguez added that the company had a responsibility to diversify its workforce following the global protests over racism and police brutality that took place in the summer of 2020.

Comcast executive vice president and chief diversity officer Dalila Wilson-Scott added that Comcast too was spurred to make changes to its workforce following the protests in 2020. 

“In so many ways, 2020 was a challenging year, one that pushed our society to its limits. And yet, it also provided us with an opportunity — really an obligation — to sharpen and deepen our commitment to building a stronger, more equitable, just, and inclusive future,” she said

The list is created based on a variety of metrics including the gender and racial representation of the overall workforce, management and board, the new hires or promotions, the commitment of company leaders to prioritize diversity and inclusion, as well as supplier diversity. 

Companies also are rewarded for philanthropic efforts and engagement with local non-profit organizations focused on people from underrepresented groups. 

While the tech industry specifically has been slow to change, efforts are being made to promote diversity. Last June, Crunchbase CEO Jager McConnell said the site will show diversity data on its company profiles in an effort to help better promote businesses run by women and minorities. 

“We wanted to take an active and lasting stance in fighting for equity, diversity, and inclusion in the startup world. We also believe that race/ethnicity data is just a starting point. There are many underfunded communities, and we’re actively exploring how we can expand our data to support those groups in the future,” McConnell said. 

Diversity Hiring: How To Walk The Walk

Even as Derek Chauvin was found guilty by a jury this April, the trial of the former police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd reopened the deep emotional wounds felt following Floyd’s death last summer. And in the wake of increased violence against Asian Americans, the nation faces more thorny issues centered around systemic racism and inequality. 

The dialogue has expanded to the world of work. Companies are under scrutiny for how they are dealing with these topics. Beyond a black Instagram square, how can your company show a true and deep commitment to diversity? Are you all talk and no walk?

Investigate Implicit Bias

If you aren’t already doing so, a good place to start is by examining your organization’s existing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts. Question whether or not your DE&I initiatives are really making a meaningful and measurable impact.

While many organizations profess to value diversity, sometimes well-meaning initiatives miss the mark. Even when we think we are objective, we all have preferences or attitudes without being conscious of them. Hidden, or implicit, biases may be at work without our realization. 

Wharton School researchers Judd Kessler and Corinne Low analyzed hiring practices at large, prestigious employers with active diversity and inclusion initiatives — firms that often recruit through relationships with schools and feeder organizations. They described their study in a Harvard Business Review article, sharing their findings that socioeconomic bias affects hiring. For example, employers tend to favor candidates who list prestigious internships that are often out of reach for disadvantaged groups. Their findings also suggested that employers may be less likely to pursue minority and female candidates who they see as less likely to accept their potential offer. And, firms hiring in STEM fields displayed a bias against minorities and women.

To remedy this, the researchers suggested hiring managers slow down their resume screening process and spend more time using objective criteria to review and compare applicants.

Diagnose Your Diversity Data

A strong example of a company walking the talk is Nike, which recently unveiled a comprehensive DE&I program that outlines goals, a timeline and metrics. Its targets include building talent pipelines and expanding recruitment, retention and promotion efforts. The company partnered with academic institutions including Northwestern University to offer a leadership education series, unconscious bias awareness training, a DE&I curriculum and other resources. 

Not all of us have the resources of a global consumer corporation, though. No matter the size, every organization can strengthen its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts with a strategic approach and commitment to change. Here are a few steps to take:

1. Analyze your hiring practices: Think about how and where you recruit. Track the demographics of your candidates. Among underrepresented minority candidates, how many are interviewed? How many are offered a job? How does that compare with your current workforce make-up? For instance, at McCann Partners, we know that more than 70% of all of our hires, whether contract, contract-to-hire or direct placements, over the last two years have been non-white males. Paying attention to home-grown metrics like this helps keep recruitment DE&I front and center.

2. Align diversity objectives with decision-making: It is one thing to have a company statement affirming a commitment to diversity, but consider what organizational policies are supporting this stance. Many organizations require diversity training, but that has limitations. One training session is insufficient without follow-up, sustained dialogue and actions that lead to change.

Diversity training should be one component in a multipronged approach, according to researchers at Kellogg School of Management. The goal is to help participants identify and reduce bias. Instead of one session, plan a series of workshops. The larger strategy should also include accountability measures for reducing bias. Along with anti-bias training, it could include mentorship programs and networking opportunities for underrepresented groups.

3. Address issues and adapt accordingly: When looking to hire, HR tech tools can help in identifying and screening more diverse candidates. But to cast a wider net of potential hires, look beyond algorithms that can sometimes amplify instead of prevent bias. Examine your hiring process from top to bottom to see if there are areas where bias can creep in. Find opportunities to recruit candidates from new places and networks.

4. Measure your impact: Set goals and assess your progress. Use a data-driven approach to analyze your staffing metrics. How do your hiring and retention metrics look for underrepresented groups? Measure your success internally with tools such as engagement surveys. Review demographics data and look at the percentage of participation in DE&I programs.

Intent And Impact

In making a DE&I statement, make sure your actions back your words. With the recent focus on racism and inequality, individuals and organizations have peppered their social media accounts with images and hashtags demonstrating solidarity with social justice causes. But beyond being a fashionable or trending topic, it’s important to enter this national conversation with humility and authenticity. 

Make sure you not merely demonstrating performative allyship, which offers simple but shallow displays of support — think Instagram black squares and retweets with trending hashtags (e.g., #blacklivesmatter, #stopasianhate, etc.). Move beyond easy, empty gestures and statements that signal support but do not involve meaningful engagement or a sustained commitment. 

Aim for true allyship, which involves listening, learning and engaging in deep discussions of difficult, complex issues. It means using power, platform and privilege to support marginalized groups. It means examining and transforming current practices. It means implementing systemic solutions with intention and integrity.

Popeyes Releases Diversity Scorecard on Marketing Efforts

Fast-food chain says it will give preference to agencies that are committed to improving racial and ethnic diversity within their ranks

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen has begun publishing data showing the racial and ethnic breakdown of internal and external personnel involved in its marketing efforts and said it would give preference to ad agencies that demonstrate a commitment to improving their diversity.

The fast-food chain said it would release the information annually to show how diversity is faring in the casts of its ads, its creative production teams, its teams at ad agencies and its own marketing department. It said it would take other measures, including mandating that at least 50% of the candidates bidding to direct its ads be ethnically diverse or female.

More diverse teams help marketers do their jobs, said Ryan Robertson, global head of brand marketing for Popeyes, part of Restaurant Brands International Inc. “That helps us tell better stories—more nuanced, more diverse stories—show different perspectives and ultimately communicate better,” he said.

The move is the latest in a number of industry efforts to increase diversity and inclusion that made headlines starting in 2016 and picked up after the police killing of George Floyd last May. Advertising holding companies began releasing U.S. employment breakdowns, for example, showing the percentage of Black employees and other people of color at their companies.

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“Like the rest of the world, we really took a step back last summer after George Floyd’s murder to ask ourselves how can we do better,” Mr. Robertson said.

The company’s first diversity scorecard says the agency teams on its accounts are 49% non-Hispanic white, 31% Hispanic, 8% Black and 7% Asian. The marketing team at Popeyes itself is 50% white, 24% Hispanic, 15% Black and 12% Asian, the scorecard says.

To help increase the pipeline of diverse talent, Popeyes and the One Club for Creativity, a nonprofit for creative professionals in advertising and design, are starting a 10-week course in food styling for ethnically and racially diverse students.

“Food styling is near and dear to our heart as a restaurant brand, but it’s an industry that has been dominated by faces that are not as diverse as they should be,” Mr. Robertson said.

Diversity scorecards are important because they allow accountability, according to Emily Graham, chief equity and impact officer at the advertising-agency holding company Omnicom Group Inc. But marketers need to set expectations to make them productive, she said.

“There’s no sense in requesting this information if you are not very clear in what’s acceptable and what success looks like,” Ms. Graham said.

Some marketers that were already pursuing similar efforts have evolved their approaches since they began.

On Thursday, HP Inc. plans to announce a set of new goals including a U.S. workforce whose racial and ethnic composition matches the broader labor force relevant to its business by 2030. HP’s previous efforts include asking its top ad agencies to disclose and improve the diversity of the teams working on its account.

HP has expanded its scorecard effort from the initial participant pool of the largest U.S.-based agencies on its roster by also inviting in its designated preferred agencies around the globe, with roughly 74% opting in, a spokeswoman said.

Underrepresented racial and ethnic groups comprised 44% of HP’s agency account teams in 2019, up from 36% in 2018, according to the spokeswoman. The company will continue to seek metrics and set goals to increase diversity and innovation across HP’s agency teams, she said.

HP’s agency scorecard strategy has spread elsewhere in the company, the spokeswoman added, saying that the IT, legal and banking departments now run programs to increase diversity at their respective suppliers.

Verizon Communications Inc. in 2016 asked its agencies for data on the employees handling their accounts and their plans to improve diversity and gender equality. It eventually stopped publishing separate sets of numbers for its agency teams’ composition and for itself, combining them into one.

“What we tried to do is to create the right balance for accountability,” said Diego Scotti, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at the company. “We’re in this all together, and to try to make this punitive—I don’t get anything by embarrassing the agencies.”

Marketing departments often take the lead in diversity efforts at their companies, said Jerri DeVard, founder of the Black Executive CMO Alliance, a group created for Black marketing executives partly to create opportunities for the next generation of Black marketing professionals.

While CEOs and departments such as human resources have essential roles to play that may not be as visible from the outside, marketers represent the voice of the brand as well as the voice of its consumers, Ms. DeVard said.

“We want to be able to represent our products and services in compelling and relevant ways, and what’s relevant to one audience may not be relevant to another,” she said.

Tech Companies That Made #BlackLivesMatter Pledges Have Fewer Black Employees

But the industry’s financial commitments, totaling $4.6 billion, could have an impact.

After the murder of George Floyd last year prompted widespread protests, dozens of companies released public pledges to promote racial justice. However, their support of the Black community wasn’t reflected in the demographics of their workforces.

A new study of diversity in the technology industry found companies that made statements of solidarity had 20% fewer Black employees on average than those that didn’t. The finding highlights a gap between what companies say about social issues and what they do in their own workplaces, said Stephanie Lampkin, the founder and chief executive officer of Blendoor, which conducted the study set to be published Monday.

Blendoor, a startup that helps companies recruit a diverse group of candidates, crunched publicly available data on 240 of the most prominent tech companies. Despite the shortcomings of many companies that put out Black Lives Matter statements, the pledges could have a serious impact. Their financial commitments surpassed $4.6 billion, more than double the amount of pledges made in the previous six years combined, according to the report.

Reviewing information released by companies over the past six years, Blendoor analyzed trends in workplace diversity, inclusion policies and human-resources programs, such as parental leave, flexible work arrangements and recruitment of underrepresented groups. It found, for example, that Pinterest Inc. had the most robust policies and programs for recruiting women; Mozilla Corp. had the best for recruiting underrepresented minorities. McKesson Corp. scored highest in Blendoor’s rating of supporting women in leadership, while  HP Inc. tops the list for underrepresented minorities in leadership.

The analysis surfaced broader findings, as well, across hundreds of companies. Asian Americans have the widest gap between their representation in entry-level tech jobs and in leadership, and Asian-American women are the least likely to advance to executive roles. Women executives more commonly have C-level jobs that focus on areas such as HR, marketing or diversity, and those roles are among the least likely to be appointed to corporate boards. The analysis also found that 36% of board directors are women or people of color but that most of those are White women or Asian men.

Lampkin, who started coding as a teenager and holds degrees from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has spent years trying to find the right technological tools to bolster diversity efforts. She founded Blendoor in 2015 as a mobile job-matching app—swiping left and right on candidates. Then, as more employers became interested in preventing unconscious bias in hiring, the app started presenting candidates in a blind setting, without pictures or names. In 2017, Blendoor started rating companies’ overall diversity efforts, using similar methodology to the latest report.

Outside of her company, Lampkin also runs a network for Black women in tech, called Visible Figures, where members trade funding, press advice, recommendations and connections. Lampkin said she’s optimistic about the push for diversity in tech given the rate of change in the last few decades but that the industry is a long way from parity. “We need all hands on deck if this is really going to change,” Lampkin said. “It has to be a paradigm shift that I don’t think is happening yet. Right now, I think it’s a lot of preaching to choirs.”

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