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Gloria Johns headshot

Numbers Don’t Lie on Diversity and Inclusion, Or Do They?

By Gloria Johns

With regard to almost anything — your bank balance, your IQ score, the number on the bathroom scale — “they” say that numbers don’t lie. But when it comes to a corporation’s diversity and inclusion evaluation, numbers have a way of representing less of what reality reflects and more what a corporation wants the public to perceive it to be.

TriplePundit recently examined three companies' demographic profiles and found varying indices being reported, such as dollars and cents and participation rates versus people. Only one company boldly asserted its diversity by counting noses.

First, the good news: Siebert Williams Shanks (SWS) is an independent non-bank financial services firm with headquarters in New York and Oakland. SWS has more than 125 employees spanning 19 offices in the U.S.

As the largest women- and minority-owned investment banking firm in the U.S., SWS is 61 percent women-owned, 92 percent minority-owned, 57 percent Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), and 32 percent of the labor force is female.

And its successful efforts to achieve diversity have not gone unnoticed in the industry. SWS was recently named the International Finance Review’s (IFR) Inaugural U.S. Diversity & Inclusion House of the Year. SWS was ranked as the top D&I firm in co-manager roles on U.S. investment-grade transactions in 2021 and was named senior manager on the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Green Deal of the Year with Newark Public Schools.

Adding credence to the notion that a diverse workforce is good business, its corporate client base includes 74 companies within the Fortune 100. SWS is also ranked as a leading co-manager of investment-grade corporate debt for the past 10 years. Under the leadership of CEO and President Suzanne Shank, SWS was the first MWBE (minority- and women-owned business enterprises) to rank among the top 10 U.S. underwriters of municipal bonds.

Is it due to the manageability of a smaller workforce, as opposed to a Google or Amazon, that SWS is able to produce such good results? Maybe. But consider that what is being reported is what is important — the actual percentage of people who occupy the chairs, based on race and ethnicity descriptors in line with those utilized by leading data analysts.

Google reports dollars and time spent on D&I. In 2014, Google.org launched a Gender Equality Portfolio that was said to have spent $55 million to create economic empowerment for women and girls by 2020. In 2015, Google.org announced a racial justice portfolio that by 2020 was predicted to spend $104 million in grants and 25,000 pro bono hours to advancing equality. In 2017 it was announced that the supplier diversity program had spent $1 billion cumulatively to promote minority-, women-, veteran-, disabled- and LGBTQ-owned businesses. In 2019, Google reported that 50 percent of its employees had completed unconscious bias training. (Was this a milestone, or why just 50 percent?)

And according to the report, 4.4 percent of Google’s U.S. employees were “Black+,” which includes workers who identify as more than one race, one of which is Black. That is far below the national average of 12.3 percent, and 9.1 percent for digital publishing and search companies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Black "plus?” Google collects data for Asian and Latinx also. The problem with these unique categories is in not being able to contrast those demographics to other entities like the U.S. Census Bureau or the Bureau of Labor Statistics that don’t use similar descriptors. The 2021 report includes a legend explaining what these “plus” categories include.

In early March, a former employee at Google sued the company, claiming it systematically discriminated against Black workers by placing them in lower-level jobs, underpaying them and denying them opportunities to advance.

It will be interesting to see what numbers Google presents to legally defend itself.

Amazon is a similar hulking giant when it comes to having a large workforce — some 1.6 million employees globally as of 2021. And Amazon has its own employee complaints such as low pay, unequal opportunities for advancement, short break times and lack of paid time off for injured workers.

Recently, in an amazing David and Goliath moment, Amazon workers at their Staten Island warehouse location won the vote to unionize. It says something about the earnestness of the employee base to improve working conditions and realize this type of victory over a well-funded behemoth.

Workers are demanding an hourly wage of $30, up from a minimum of just over $18 per hour offered by the company. The estimated average wage for the borough is $41 per hour, according to a similar U.S. Census Bureau analysis of Staten Island’s $85,381 median household income.

And although Amazon was recently voted the No. 1 place to work by LinkedIn in terms of advancement, demographics show that while more than 60 percent of the hourly associates at the Staten Island facility were Black or Latino, most of its managers were white or Asian.

No, the numbers don’t lie, but accuracy depends on asking the right questions. Corporations would take a giant leap toward authenticity in their corporate responsibility reporting by standardizing basic goals and measurements.  

Image credit: Christina Morillo via Pexels

Gloria Johns headshot

Gloria Johns' career has included her work as a columnist for Scripps-Howard, Gannett and Tribune News Service. She writes for the San Angelo Standard Times and the West Texas Angelus. Previously she was a special features reporter for San Angelo LIVE! Gloria also has nearly thirty years of award-winning grant writing experience for federal, state and county funds to support social, medical, educational and arts projects. She has enjoyed a successful career in telecommunications and nonprofit management. "Gloria is a Purdue University graduate. She has also attended Angelo State University for graduate courses and studied Texas Family Law at Sam Houston State University. She lives just on the edge of the Chihuahua desert in west Texas.

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