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More Companies Are Making Diversity Data Public. But the Majority Aren’t Meeting Requirements. | Barron’s

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Disclosures of employee ethnicity are skyrocketing, according to new research. But the majority of firms are disclosing no diversity data, even as investors pressure companies for firms to address racial inequity.  

There was a 335% increase in ethnicity disclosures between 2015 and 2019 among a sample of 685 North American mid- and large-cap companies, according to Sustainalytics, a unit of

Morningstar.

But 61% of those companies publicly disclosed none of the ethnicity data they were required to disclose to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Only nine, or 1%, of the companies sampled publicly disclosed more than 120 of the 180 data points required for the commission’s EEO-1 form. Those companies were

Adobe

(ticker: ADBE),

Apple

(AAPL),

Bank of New York Mellon

(BK),

Intel

(INTC),

Merck

(MRK),

PayPal

(PYPL),

PepsiCo

(PEP),

Starbucks

(SBUX), and

T. Rowe Price

(TROW).

Investors have pressed companies to provide information about racial diversity and pay equity, especially in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody last year. In part, they are trying to better understand what corporate diversity and inclusion efforts are accomplishing. Analysts have described a strong business case for gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity in the workforce, partly because it leads to better decision-making and makes workplaces more attractive to future employees.

This month, the Securities & Exchange Commission approved

Nasdaq’s

push for greater disclosure of corporate diversity for companies listed on its exchange. The newly approved rules require Nasdaq-listed companies to meet certain race and gender targets for their board members and publish diversity statistics.

Sustainalytics found that shares of those firms with more diverse upper management produced greater total returns, returning 14.4% a year on average over a five-year period, versus 9.9% for firms with lower minority representation in their upper ranks.

“For investors hoping to reap the full benefits of diversity, data on a broad spectrum of genders, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, at every level of seniority would be desirable,” Sustainalytics wrote. “Strong representation across ethnic groups may indicate that leadership bring diverse perspectives and may be reflective of strong organizational hiring practices.”

The Barron’s Daily

A morning briefing on what you need to know in the day ahead, including exclusive commentary from Barron’s and MarketWatch writers.

According to a recent survey of more than 2,000 young tech workers by Wiley, nearly 70% said they felt uncomfortable at work because of their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, or neurodevelopmental condition. Half said they had left, or wanted to leave, a tech or IT job because their company’s culture made them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable.

“With nine million unfilled jobs currently in the U.S., the economy will continue to struggle as it experiences a labor shortage, especially if companies are ill-equipped to recruit and retain a diverse tech workforce,” Daniele Grassi, chief operating officer for mthree, a unit of Wiley, said. “Expanding and diversifying talent pipelines will get great workers in high-demand tech jobs faster, benefitting both companies and workers.”

Investors are also pushing for companies to improve performance on racial justice, including how they treat the environment in communities of color. Recently, As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy organization that is a frequent filer of shareholder proposals, said it added four new key-performance indicators focused on the environment, including corporate environmental violations, to an array of indicators on racial justice. It applies the indicators to assessments of

S&P 500

companies.

Write to Leslie P. Norton at leslie.norton@barrons.com

This content was originally published here.

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