Diversity Now: How Companies and Workers Are Bringing Nationwide Social Justice Protests to the Workplace

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July 15, 2020

December 9 Update

Diversity and inclusion related job openings have continued to surge, according to the latest Glassdoor data. As of November 30, there were 1,492 diversity and inclusion related job openings available on Glassdoor, just shy of their all-time high set in October. D&I job openings now are 54 percent higher than pre-crisis levels and a full 245 percent higher than their intra-crisis low on June 8. 

By contrast, HR job openings are still 32 percent below pre-crisis levels and overall job openings are still down 10 percent. Growth in job openings has slowed as the overall recovery has slowed, but the sustained demand for D&I workers suggests that corporate investment is continuing.

Key Findings

  • Diversity and inclusion-related job openings declined at twice the rate (-60%) as overall job postings following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic from March through June 8. Since bottoming out on June 8, D&I job openings have rebounded 55 percent as racial justice has taken center stage.
  • Employee reviews on Glassdoor discussing diversity, racial justice, Black Lives Matter and similar topics rose 63 percent following the week of May 25, as nationwide protests stirred dialogue about racial inequality among employees and leaders. 71 percent of these reviews expressed concern or dissatisfaction with companies’ responses.
  • More companies (300+) expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and  acknowledged the reality of systemic racism and racial injustice, something that hadn’t happened before May’s protests.

Over the last month, a wave of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd ignited a national conversation on racial inequities and social justice. What is perhaps unprecedented, however, is how these events appear to have extended into the workplace. But while many companies released statements in support of protests and further action to fight systemic racism, questions remain: Are companies addressing inequalities within their own workplaces in meaningful ways? And what do employees have to say about employers’ actions?

In this research, we examine Glassdoor reviews to better understand how employers are communicating and acting on commitments to improve  diversity & inclusion within their workplaces. This analysis provides a crucial, unique look into how employees feel about their companies’ response and actions.

Diversity & Inclusion Roles Take a Hit During COVID-19

In the wake of nationwide protests, many companies committed to greater internal investments like hiring more diverse workforces and increasing representation of Black employees in leadership. Hiring diversity & inclusion-related (D&I) jobs is one of the most tangible measures of a companies’ commitment to such efforts because of how expensive and challenging it is to find, hire and retain specialized talent. The decision to hire D&I-focused workers therefore is a meaningful signal of a deeper and more sustained investment.

D&I job openings in recent years have been on the rise, reaching an all-time high at the beginning of March 2020 with over 1,000 openings available on Glassdoor. However, as the COVID-19 crisis took hold, D&I job openings declined precipitously, plunging 60 percent by June 8. D&I job openings fell at twice the rate of overall  job openings for the whole economy over the same time period.

This drop is partially due to the nature of D&I-related jobs. Most D&I jobs are in HR departments, which typically are hit hard during recessions. For example, as companies undergo hiring freezes, the need for diversity sourcers and recruiters decreases. HR job openings were down 49 percent over the same time frame, indicating that while D&I job openings have dropped more severely than the rest of the economy, this decline is similar to HR functions more broadly.

Notably, job openings for D&I began to rebound markedly, surging 50 percent in June.D&I job openings increased by an even larger 55 percent, after bottoming out on June 8. This growth in job openings comes against a backdrop of a historic nationwide focus on issues of racial inequality and the need for greater diversity and equal opportunity across society. However, the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis still looms large as, notwithstanding this recent surge in D&I job openings, the number of such openings is significantly depressed (-38 percent) compared to pre-crisis levels.

Another encouraging sign is that job openings for D&I executive and leadership roles such as “Chief Diversity Officer”, “Head of Diversity & Inclusion” and “Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion”, have more than doubled since June 8, increasing 2.6 times. This signals that companies increasingly are making diversity and inclusion a priority at the highest levels.

Companies Call Out Racial Inequality 

Many companies issued statements in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing and the ensuing protests. We examined statements companies posted on their Glassdoor pages directed at employees and job candidates, analyzing 480 statements from 348 companies in May and June 2020. 

Notably, companies are shifting their language. Phrases like “racial injustice” and “systemic racism” that had never been used previously in company updates on Glassdoor appeared in dozens of statements in May and June. Similarly, 92 companies posted explicitly about “Black Lives Matter”, compared to 0 across all of 2019.

In their updates, companies used many terms related to racial injustice and inequality, but were particularly focused on how these issues affect their organization and employees. Many released personal statements from their CEOs, offering support to Black employees and committing to improve diversity and inclusion efforts within their companies.

What Employees Say About Workplace Equality Efforts

Prior survey data from  Glassdoor-Harris polling revealed that 3 in 5 workers witnessed or experienced discriminiation in the workplace. Glassdoor’s unique platform for workplace reviews  enables employees to directly share a range of authentic experiences, both “pro” and “con”, giving us deeper insights into how the nationwide focus on racial inequality has affected employees’ views on their own workplace experiences and employers.

The percent of employee reviews on Glassdoor discussing D&I, racial justice or the Black Lives Matter protests spiked 63 percent in the weeks following George Floyd’s killing (from the week of May 25 to the week of June 1). These race-related discussions were still happening at this elevated rate a month later, with reviews referencing these topics remaining above 3.5 percent. This sustained level of employee reviews relating to race indicates that employees both care and are actively discussing race in the workplace, which likely places increasing pressure on companies to act.

These sustained references in employee reviews to diversity and race reveal that employees are mostly dissatisfied with either companies’ current efforts and responses to the protests, with many reviews describing personal experiences with workplace inequality. Of reviews relating to diversity and race left on Glassdoor between May 25 and July 5, 71 percent of employee reviews reference these terms negatively, while only 27 percent reference these terms positively, pointing to general concern and if not widespread dissatisfaction from employees.

Within different industries, the share of reviews discussing D&I, racial justice or the Black Lives Matter protests varies in terms of the sentiment and frequency. The table below shows the percent of reviews that mention these topics and the percent of those reviews which associate them negatively. Employees expressed the highest rates of workplace diversity dissatisfaction in the media and restaurant sectors; however, it’s clear that employees are not satisfied with how their employers are handling diversity and discrimination issues in their workplaces across most industries. 

Media has the Highest Percent of D&I-Related Reviews 

Sector Percent of D&I-Related Reviews Percent of D&I Reviews with Negative Sentiment
Media 8% 84%
Restaurants, Bars & Food Services 2% 82%
Transportation & Logistics 4% 81%
Retail 3% 79%
Manufacturing 4% 78%
Non-Profit 6% 76%
Business Services 4% 73%
Biotech & Pharmaceuticals 4% 72%
Insurance 5% 69%
Health Care 3% 68%
Education 3% 67%
Real Estate 4% 63%
Technology 4% 61%
Finance 4% 60%
Accounting & Legal 3% 59%

Source: U.S. employee reviews on Glassdoor, May 25–July 5

Conclusion

Recent events have ignited nationwide protests and elevated issues surrounding social justice and racial inequities into the forefront of the national conversation. The increasing integration of public and corporate spheres means that many companies feel an obligation to speak out both to consumers and their own employees, who increasingly want leaders to weigh in and lend support.

While companies are talking the talk, employees are expecting them to also walk the walk. These expectations, and dissatisfaction with employers’ response to these events and  diversity- and discrimination-related issues in general, puts pressure on employers to take meaningful and not just symbolic actions. While the COVID-19 crisis may have initially pushed companies to pull back on investment in diversity & inclusion, more recent evidence now suggests that pressure and awareness from employees may be spurring companies to back up their commitments with action.

Methodology

To analyze company status updates, we examined status updates in May and June 2020 that included terms related to race such as “black lives matter”, “racial injustice” and “underrepresented minorities”. We then counted up the most frequent terms and phrases, filtering out stop words (e.g. “the”, “an”) and stemming words (i.e. “take”, “taking” stem to “take” and would be counted as the same term).

To measure the number of D&I job openings, we searched Glassdoor’s database of job openings for any openings with a job title containing keywords related to diversity & inclusion like “diversity” and “D&I”. 

To measure employee sentiment around diversity, we look at employee reviews left by U.S.-based employees on Glassdoor that include keywords related to diversity and inclusion, including keywords related to the Black Lives Matter movement and keywords related to harassment or diversity. We designate reviews that mention these keywords in the “Pros” section as having positive sentiment, and conversely, designate reviews using these keywords in the “Cons” as negative.