People raise their fists as they march during an event commemorating George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota May 23, 2021.
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The assassination of George Floyd and the resulting social justice movement was an eye-opening moment for many in the United States, including the country’s leading companies. The tragedy has sparked more awareness and positive change in American businesses, according to a new CNBC poll of black executives. However, the results of the survey show that much remains to be done.
The survey, conducted by CNBC in partnership with the Executive Leadership Council, found that 74% of black executives said they have seen a positive change in hiring, retaining and promoting black employees since the killing of Floyd in May 2020. Even more (80%) said their company has given employee resource groups more support and attention.
But the need for greater consideration of diversity issues is also evident in the results. Many Black executives say that the organizational treatment of Black employees has stayed the same (43%) or gotten worse (9%) since 2020, and those who say it has improved (48%). And just over half say there are still fewer opportunities for Black employees than for other employees at their company.
“Results from the CNBC survey suggest that post-Floyd companies have an increased awareness of the significant opportunity gap facing black professionals,” said Shundrawn Thomas, founder of investment firm The Copia Group. “While individual improvements are noted, the results reflect the sobering reality that translating announcements into progress requires greater and more sustained effort going forward.”
The vast majority of respondents (88%) indicated that their companies did indeed commit to DEI in 2020 following the assassination of George Floyd, and that this commitment is beginning to be reflected at senior management levels.
Since 2020, many companies (41%) have increased the proportion of Black executives in their leadership team; 40% of respondents say the achievement of diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) goals is part of the compensation structure for executive team members.
But even at the most senior level, nearly a quarter (23%) of these leaders say they feel they are being paid less than their peers. And nearly two-thirds of respondents said Black employees were underrepresented in senior management at their company, with only about a quarter reporting equal representation and about 10% saying Black representation was higher. More than 20% of respondents said there was no black representation in leadership.
“The survey results reflect the current state of diversity in American businesses and underscore the fact that there is still work to be done,” said Judy Smith, founder of crisis management firm Smith & Company.
Smith and Thomas are among the panellists at CNBC’s upcoming “Equity & Opportunity: Exec Connect” inaugural event on June 28 in New Orleans, which will focus on Black leadership. They will be joined by MSNBC President Rashida Jones and Amalgamated Bank CEO Priscilla Sims Brown.
Among Black executives who reported leaving organizations since 2020 (nearly a third of survey respondents), a majority said their employer’s commitment to DEI was a factor. More black executives said their companies are “checking the DEI box” ahead of 2020 rather than taking a comprehensive approach.
“This is not the time to rest on our laurels or slow down,” Google chief diversity officer Melonie Parker told CNBC. Parker, who attended the event, added, “The survey results show that there is still work to be done to ensure that African Americans at all levels have an equal experience of the workplace. We need to double down on our DEI commitments and stay on track to drive change. Much work is needed to create a more representative and inclusive workplace.”
The survey was conducted June 1-14 among members of the ELC, with the majority coming from organizations with 10,000 employees or more. Sixty percent of respondents operate at the C-suite or executive vice president level of their organization.