Is your company actually an equal opportunity employer? For years, there was really no way to know for sure.
Corporations touted their commitment to a diverse workforce in glossy annual reports filled with smiling photographs of employees of all races but refused to disclose the actual numbers of people of color and women they employ.
That is beginning to change.
Just more than a year after George Floyd's murder, companies are voluntarily opening themselves up to greater public scrutiny by sharing the workforce data they are required to submit each year to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
A record 54 corporations, including Target, CVS Health, Bank of America, Ford Motor Co. and Merck, gave USA TODAY their EEO-1 forms, many of them disclosing the data for the first time. The companies are part of the Standard & Poor’s 100, a stock index of the nation's most valuable companies.
These forms, which the EEOC began collecting in 1966, provide a detailed breakdown by race and gender of 10 job categories. They are considered crucial to understanding patterns of discrimination in the workforce.
The problem? Federal officials will not release those records to the public without companies’ permission, citing privacy protections in the Civil Rights Act. An ongoing civil suit filed by Reveal, a nonprofit investigative journalism outlet, challenges the legality of hiding these records from the public.
“That these data are still confidential violates the notions of transparency that are central to American democracy,” said Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, a professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst who runs the Center for Employment Equity.
USA TODAY asked every company in the S&P 100 to disclose its EEO-1 forms.
Some of America's most iconic brands like McDonald's, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Pepsi did. Another 23 corporations committed to publicly releasing that data this year or next, including Amazon, AT&T, Boeing, Comcast, General Motors, Home Depot, United Parcel Service, Walmart and Wells Fargo.
USA TODAY reporters asked the news network’s parent company, Gannett, which is not part of the S&P 100, for its EEO-1 filing. Gannett, the largest newspaper company in America with about one out of every six papers, said it would publicly release its EEO-1 for the first time in 2022.
But some of the nation’s most powerful corporations and best-known brands – Exxon Mobil, T-Mobile, FedEx – refused USA TODAY’s requests for their most recent EEO-1 forms and offered no timeline for disclosure.
Even Walgreens Boots Alliance, whose new CEO is Rosalind Brewer, the first African American to serve as chief operating officer of Starbucks and one of two Black women running a Fortune 500 company, refused to disclose its federal workforce report.
Amazon also declined to release its most recent EEO-1 report. It last released the data in 2016.
For those companies holding out, the reasons varied. Many are reluctant to disclose EEO-1 data for fear of being cast in a negative light. They also contend the data they publish in annual diversity reports better reflect their workforce than the data collected by the federal government.
Some household names did not respond to repeated requests from USA TODAY. They include Tesla, Berkshire Hathaway, The Walt Disney Company and Texas Instruments.
Corporations are coming under growing pressure from shareholders, employees and civil rights groups to be more transparent.
For instance, a campaign led by Scott Stringer, the New York City comptroller who advises the largest city in America's public retirement funds, has persuaded some corporations to release their EEO-1s.
When DuPont and Union Pacific refused to hand over their EEO-1 data, Stringer helped secure an overwhelming majority of the shareholder vote to force disclosure.
“The one thing that makes it possible for this behavior, for these practices to continue, is silence and lack of transparency,” said Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox and the first Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. “Data, data, data. You have to get it out there.”
Melissa Knight, interim director of Howard University's Center for Career and Professional Success in Washington, D.C., says students at Howard, one of the 107 historically black colleges and universities, want to know more about the companies they may join.
"If companies want to recruit at HBCUs, that is the kind of data that we want to gather. We want to see the hiring practices when they are recruiting," said Knight, who held a similar role at Texas Southern University, also a HBCU school. "I don't understand why it's private."
Knight said a company's failure to disclose its EEO-1 reports may indicate it has something to hide.
"They need to report the information," Knight said. "We are well aware of the unequal hiring practices that have occurred for years. There just needs to be openness and honesty. Tell us how you are going to change it."
Intel is a trailblazer in transparency. It has voluntarily released its EEO-1 form for years.
"To make substantial progress, we must be transparent with our data to hold ourselves accountable and encourage industrywide action," said Dawn Jones, Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and vice president of social impact.
At Intel Corp., 1.8% of leadership, 3.4% of management, and 4.25% of professionals are Black, and 5% of its total workforce is Black. About 12.4% of the total U.S. population is Black.
"We believe transparency will bring increased attention to truly address persisting issues," Jones said. "Yes, that does mean we open ourselves up to being critiqued, but it is worth it because it’s a necessary step to take toward true change."
Joni Davis, vice president of diversity and inclusion and chief of staff at Duke Energy, said her company released the data as a "signal to other utility and energy companies that it's OK to be transparent on this journey together."
Some in Congress also wants companies to be more upfront.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, both Democrats, have introduced a bill that would force companies to reveal the ethnic and gender diversity and the veteran status of their boards of directors and executives. A similar measure passed in the House last year, and Menendez says the new legislation could clear the Senate this year.
“The bill doesn’t force companies to become more diverse, but it does require them to be more transparent about their numbers and their practices. And for me, that’s valuable information that I think the public and potential investors should have when they are deciding where to put their money,” Menendez told USA TODAY.
Outside pressure on corporations to diversify their workforces – and to be transparent about the process – is growing.
Two of the world's largest investment managers, BlackRock and Vanguard Group, have pledged to vote against corporate directors who don’t push for more diversity. Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services said that next year it will recommend voting against directors whose boards are not diverse.
And 2021 has been a record year for diversity proposals from shareholders. The majority of investors called on IBM to produce an annual diversity report. A handful of other companies had more than 80% of their shareholders back diversity proposals.
Even with momentum driving corporate America toward increased disclosure, these efforts will face pushback, cautions Nell Minow, vice chair of ValueEdge Advisors, a consulting firm specializing in corporate governance.
“The recognition from shareholders that this is a dollars-and-cents issue is tremendously important, but I think it will continue to be a struggle for quite a while,” Minow said.
“I don’t mean to suggest that we haven't made progress. The progress we have made is that they can no longer pretend it’s not a problem. But that’s not the same as fixing the problem.”
Here are the companies that would not publicly disclose their EEO-1 reports.
- American International Group Inc.
- Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
- Booking Holdings Inc.
- Broadcom Inc.
- Capital One Financial Corp.
- Charter Communications Inc.
- Comcast Corp.
- Danaher Corp.
- DuPont de Nemours Inc.
- Emerson Electric Co.
- Exxon Mobil Corp.
- FedEx Corp.
- General Electric Co.
- General Motors Co.
- Honeywell International Inc.
- International Business Machines Corp.
- Johnson & Johnson
- Linde PLC
- Lockheed Martin Corp.
- NextEra Energy Inc.
- NIKE Inc.
- Pfizer Inc.
- Philip Morris International Inc.
- QUALCOMM Inc.
- Raytheon Technologies Corp.
- Simon Property Group Inc.
- Tesla Inc.
- Texas Instruments Inc.
- The Boeing Co.
- The Home Depot Inc.
- The Kraft Heinz Co.
- The Southern Co.
- The Walt Disney Co.
- Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.
- T-Mobile US Inc.
- Union Pacific Corp.
- United Parcel Service Inc.
- Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.
- Walmart Inc.
- Wells Fargo & Co.
*Abbott Laboratories, Altria Group Inc., AT&T Inc., General Dynamics Corp. and UnitedHealth Group Inc. provided their EEO-1s after publication deadline.
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How we did it
More in this series
- ‘We are fundamentally a racist and sexist society’: How top companies in US are struggling to diversify leadership
- ‘The new plantation’: How (and why) tech’s corporate giants haven’t successfully diversified their workforces
- Q&A: Ursula Burns on the fight for racial justice in corporate America: ‘We have to fundamentally change institutions’
- Q&A: ‘Values cannot be words on a wall’: PayPal CEO Dan Schulman on why corporations must end racial discrimination
- Explore: Search our database of EEO-1 employment records
- Banking: Black and Hispanic workers make headway as bank managers, but white people still dominate executive level jobs
- Food retail: America’s executives at Coke, Costco, Pepsi and Starbucks still mostly white and male