Sep 30, 2021 - Economy

U.S. firms' diversity and inclusion efforts lag behind most of the world

A conference table with technology

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Despite what recruiting brochures or company ads might suggest, U.S. companies lag far behind most of the world when it comes to diversity and inclusion. 

Why it matters: The pandemic compounded racial and gender gaps across the workforce at a time when more companies than ever before are trying to gain greater diversity on boards and in management. 

Driving the news: Mary Barra being named the first woman as chair of the Business Roundtable (a nearly 50-year-old group) this week is an outlier compared to trends that show how women, and specifically women of color, continue to be underrepresented at every job level, according to a new McKinsey report.

  • Separately, a recent Refinitiv analysis shows the wide gulf between U.S. and international companies on average diversity and inclusion scores.

State of play: U.S. companies rank below the average and in some cases near the bottom, within all diversity and inclusion metrics, according to Refintiv's findings. 

  • U.S. firms scored (21.73) far below those in Indonesia (top score of 54.48) for example, on people development — promotions, employee training and satisfaction — and near dead last when it comes to the percentage of cultural diversity on boards. Only Argentina and Mexico scored lower.
  • On inclusion — providing flexible working hours, supporting employees with disabilities — American companies (11.13) were well below the average (15.39) and high (South Africa with 32.48).

The bottom line: Shareholders are demanding more diversity within companies at the same time that companies are finally understanding why it’s important.

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