How Employers and HR Can Help Drive Talent Parity for Black Employees

Both McKinsey and Glassdoor published in-depth research this month into career growth opportunities for Black Americans. The findings were…disheartening.

But they also shine a light on ways employers and HR can change the trajectory of Black workers’ advancement.

In this article, we dig into those reports as well as what the findings suggest could be paths forward.

Black workers won’t reach talent parity for 95 years based on the current trajectory of representation across all levels of the private-sector workforce, according to McKinsey’s report.

Representation in management is at the heart of the private-sector talent disparity for Black Americans.

  • Black Americans only make up 7% of the managerial positions, despite being 12% of the U.S. population. And it gets slimmer as you go up. Black workers only represent 4% of VP and SVP-level roles.
  • And at the very top? Come April, only four Fortune 500 companies will have a Black CEO (that’s 0.8%). Out of the 1,800 CEOs at Fortune 500 companies over the years, only 19 have been Black.

Low-growth and low-pay locations and industries are also significant factors to the talent disparity for Black workers.

  • Only 1 in 10 Black workers live in counties with the highest projected job growth. Almost 60% live in Southern states, but job growth is primarily occuring in Pacific and West states.
  • They are also underrepresented in fast-growing, high-pay industries like financial services, professional services, and IT. 

Black workers have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, particularly in essential roles and as working parents.

  • Black workers are overrepresented in frontline positions (18%) such as food services, healthcare, retail, and transportation.
  • They have also been disproportionally affected by job loss. While the average unemployment rate in January was 6.3%, it was 8.8% for Black women and 9.6% for Black men.
  • 48% of Black mothers say the pandemic has had a major impact on their ability to pay for necessities like housing, utilities, and food.

Satisfaction at work and sense of belonging is also lower among Black workers compared to their peers.

  • Only 53% of Black employees believed their co-workers valued and embraced diversity, according to McKinsey. That’s far different than the 75% of white employees who believed it.
  • On average, Black employees rate their companies 0.2 points lower on Glassdoor compared to their co-workers, according to a recent report from the platform. That report also served as an introduction to Glassdoor’s new feature that breaks down employer ratings by ethnicity.
  • These low satisfaction rates lead to high turnover, which is disproportionally higher for Black employees — even in lucrative positions. In 2019, 1 in 3 Black employees intended to leave their well-paying jobs in the next two years.
  • But the satisfaction disparity varied by company. In that same Glassdoor report, Starbucks had a 0.1 higher rating among Black workers compared to its overall rating. At Macy’s it was 0.7 lower.

So what can employers do? As the Glassdoor results reveal, Black employees’ experience at work is highly dependent on the company.

  • Diversity starts at the top., beginning with support and representation at the executive level. Mentorship, in particular, is an overlooked opportunity to guide Black employees into management and to lower attrition when they get there.
  • Prioritize flexibility. While geographic relocation may not be feasible for many Black workers, the pandemic’s acceleration of WFA and flexible work arraignments has opened up a nation’s worth of job opportunities. As long as employers keep the door open.
  • Think structurally, not tactically. The barriers above aren’t simple fixes nor one-off initiatives. The organization’s that excel at DEI don’t make it a quarterly to-do; they make it a function of their business.
  • Give Black employees time to rest and recover. As Danielle D. King, Abdifatah A. Ali, Courtney L. McCluney, and Courtney Bryant wrote for HBR: “Black employees are exhausted. Over the past year, their cognitive, emotional, and physical resources have been disproportionally depleted due to two deadly and intertwined pandemics: Covid-19 and structural racism.”

Bottom line: Yes, many of the challenges holding back Black advancement are national and systemic. But there is also so much that employers and HR can do within their own organization to help drive talent parity.

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter. Each Friday, we'll send you our newest videos, articles, and what we're reading. 

More Articles

Thinking Differently About Flexibility In The Post-Pandemic Workplace
For years, the HR industry has discussed the importance of flexibility in the workplace. But, like many other HR trends,...
Hybrid Work’s Potentially Positive Environmental Impact
Happy Earth Day! In honor of our favorite blue marble, we're looking at how hybrid work has the potential to positively...
The Post-Pandemic Labor Market Paradox
With unemployment still above pre-pandemic levels, finding and attracting talent seems like it should be easy. But counterintuitively, we're in...