This is America: Black and Hispanic workers are still not getting a fair shake at work

For years, reporter Jessica Guynn has persuaded companies to voluntarily hand over staffing demographics that they must file with the feds but they don’t have to release to the public

At first, she used the data to illustrate how the tech sector was replicating the racial and gender disparities of much older industries, like banking. 

Then a cop killed George Floyd

Hundreds of companies marketed their support for Black Lives Matter and made promises to reckon with racial discrimination inside their own organizations. But had they really?

So she set out to do something that had never been done before, talk the majority of the S&P 100 – the nation’s largest and most valuable corporations – into turning over their EEO-1 reports.

These one-page forms detail how many women and people of color work at all levels of an organization. Companies must submit them annually to federal regulators, who have refused to release them as public records. (Read more about that legal fight here.)

Jessica can attest after years of asking for EEO-1 reports that companies are very reluctant to make this information public. The renewed focus on Black Lives Matter in 2020 made those conversations a bit – just a bit – easier.

A USA TODAY analysis of previously undisclosed hiring records from dozens of top firms found that more than a year later, executive roles remain overwhelmingly white.

In all, Jessica collected reports from a record 54 companies in the S&P 100, with pledges from 23 more to release their EEO-1s later this year. And some already have. Many of these companies sharing their EEO-1 reports have never shared them before.

And that’s where Jayme Fraser came in, along with fellow data reporter Dian Zhang. They converted those PDFs into a database (that subscribers can access here!). And then they compared the demographics of these companies to the U.S. workforce as a whole and by sector with data from the Census Bureau. 

‘Values cannot be words on a wall’:PayPal CEO Dan Schulman on why corporations must end racial discrimination

Sorry, that's classified:What Disney and Walgreens and others won’t tell you about the diversity of their workers

Along with Jessica and Jayme, Craig Harris and Charisse Jones dug into the numbers to investigate how well represented Black and Hispanic people were at these companies.

In July we published an 8-part series that included industry spotlights on tech, retail and banking. We hope to write about other industries and other identity groups in the future. (If you have a good idea, email us!) 

We're Jessica Guynn, senior technology and economic opportunity reporter at USA TODAY and Jayme Fraser, a data reporter at USA TODAY. Welcome to this week’s “This Is America” newsletter centered on race and identity and how they shape our lives.

But first: Race and justice news we're watching

Spoiler alert: deep racial inequalities still persist 

Here’s the short version of what we found so far: Opportunity is still not created equal in the American workplace.

More than a year after corporations pledged change, deep racial inequalities persisted at every level, creating sharply disparate outcomes for many people of color, especially women of color.

Black and Hispanic workers are underrepresented in the highest-paying and most influential positions, as well as in the ranks of professionals, such as lawyers and marketers. What’s more, at the lower levels of organizations, they are concentrated – and often overrepresented – in roles such as administrative assistants, technicians and laborers.

Not only were the companies we examined mostly white and male, they were often less diverse than others in their industries and the U.S. labor force as a whole, putting them out of step with the people and the country they serve.

Is tech the 'new plantation'?:How (and why) tech’s corporate giants haven’t successfully diversified their workforces

Why is banking still so white?:Black and Hispanic workers make headway, but white people still dominate

One sobering data point: The overwhelming majority of executives are white, while only 1 in 443 Black or Hispanic employees have an executive job. 

And it only got worse from there.

Let’s take McDonald’s as an example. 

The global icon has wrestled with allegations of racial discrimination for years, ties 15% of executive bonuses to meeting targets including diversity and inclusion. 

“The one thing that makes it possible for this behavior, for these practices to continue is silence and lack of transparency,” diversity advocate and former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns said. “Data, data, data. You have to get it out there.”

McDonald's executives most closely reflect the nation's demographics among food and retail businesses, with white people holding 66% of executive jobs while Hispanic people hold 15% and Black people 10%.

But that equity was not found in other positions. As is typical in the U.S. workforce as a whole, there is greater diversity in low-paying roles than high-paying decision-making jobs. Black and Hispanic people account for 28% of the nation's workers. But at McDonald's, 34% of these nonmanagement, nonprofessional jobs were held by Hispanic people and another 23% were Black – rates about double their share of the national workforce. Though most of the company’s women workers are nonwhite, 21 of the 28 female executives are white.

There needs to be public accountability

Why does making this information public matter? Decades of exclusion and discrimination have limited job opportunities, promotions and wealth generation for Black and Hispanic workers. That means that many of our coworkers are not getting a fair shake.

That's why companies are facing growing pressure from investors, customers and employees to disclose this information. And yes, they are getting pressure from us, too. We think it’s one of the few ways to hold the leaders of these companies to account.

Diversity advocate and former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns agrees.

“The one thing that makes it possible for this behavior, for these practices to continue is silence and lack of transparency,” she told us. “Data, data, data. You have to get it out there.”

‘We have to fundamentally change':Ursula Burns on the fight for racial justice in corporate America

Coke, Costco, Pepsi, Starbucks:America’s food retail executives still mostly white and male

And we are not done yet.

Since its founding, USA TODAY has had a public service mandate. Part of that mandate is telling the stories that too often get overlooked and to hold officials – whether public or corporate – accountable for their decisions. This is one of those stories.

We will update our data in the coming months as more companies turn over their EEO-1 reports and we will keep publishing updates every year.

But, in our view, EEO-1 data is just the start. 

We are hopeful that corporations will provide more public data so we can take a hard look at recruitment, retention and pay disparities by race and gender. 

We’d also like to see the government collect more demographic information on employees. Right now, EEO-1 reports only track three kinds of identity information: race, ethnicity and gender, but not  sexual orientation, non-binary genders, and other characteristics that can result in discrimination and disparities much like those that have harmed Black and Hispanic workers. 

Until then, Jessica, Jayme and the rest of us at USA TODAY are eager for more scanned PDFs and messy spreadsheets. 


This is America is a weekly take on current events from a rotating panel of USA TODAY Network journalists with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. If you're seeing this newsletter online or someone forwarded it to you, you can subscribe here. If you have feedback for us, we'd love for you to drop it here.