Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Workers — especially millennials and Gen Zers — are paying close attention to the words and actions of their employers during national crises, such as the protests following the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

Why it matters: American companies have an enormous amount of wealth and influence that they can put toward effecting change, and CEOs have the potential to fill the leadership vacuum left by government inaction. More and more rank-and-file employees expect their bosses to do something with that money and power.

But while a slew of big firms and individual CEOs have put out statements of support for the black community, few have said what they're going to do about it.

  • "I see hundreds of brands posting the same image [of a Black Lives Matter symbol], but this issue has been around for hundreds of years, and a lot of these companies have been around for hundreds of years, too," says Andrew Sampson, founder and CEO of the app Rainway. "What are you going to do more than just post a tweet?"
  • "I find it baffling that these companies with market caps of billions are saying they'll match employee donations," they say.

By the numbers: The lack of meaningful action is exacerbated by the abysmally low representation of black leaders and workers in corporate America.

  • Black professionals held 3.3% of executive or senior leadership roles in 2018, according to data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cited by CNN.
  • There are just four black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies today, per CNN.
  • Black workers make up about 3% of Silicon Valley's workforce, reports Fortune.
  • Just 1% of venture-backed founders in the last five years were black, according to Crunchbase.

The big picture: Not only is putting money, hiring efforts and advocacy behind their statements the right thing to do, it's also good business.

  • "Values are important, and they are a recruiting tool, but it's more than just 'What are your values?' It's how you live your values," says Lars Schmidt, founder of Amplify, an HR consulting firm.
  • "There is absolutely an expectation that the company speak up and take action, especially on social justice issues," a Deloitte employee tells me. "Our leadership explicitly cites inclusivity and diversity as some of our highest values, and younger employees in particular expect that those come to fruition."
  • And it matters for firms' customers, too. 58% of millennials, 55% of Gen Xers and 51% of baby boomers think it’s important that brands they support invest in causes they care about, according to a report from InMoment, which helps firms improve customer and employee experiences.

The bottom line: "Job seekers are savvy," Schmidt says. When young, talented workers are deciding which job offer to accept, they'll be looking at how companies handled these protests and how they responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

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