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A new report looking at the experience of Black workers in the private sector found that unless specific measures are undertaken, it will take close to 95 years to close racial gaps in the workplace. A concerted effort to remove the barriers for Black workers could close the gap within 25 years, according to McKinsey’s report about race in the workplace.

The report identified 10 areas for companies and other stakeholders to address to increase opportunities for employment racial parity. Some areas for improvement included reducing high unemployment for Black workers as compared to others, underrepresentation of Black workers in fast-growing industries and higher-wage jobs and limited managerial sponsorship and support for Black employees.

The report also suggested five “no-regrets” moves such as strategically prioritizing interventions and tracking progress to increase accountability and successes. As the workforce grows more diverse, so should opportunities for advancement. 

Addressing racial inequities is also good for the economy. Research from PolicyLink estimated that removing racial disparities would boost the U.S. economy by $2.3 trillion. Improving employment opportunities and wages would improve outcomes for workers, their families, and the economy according to the report “In Race and the Work of the Future.”

Nearly 60 percent of Black workers are in the south, away from new sites of investment and industry opportunity. And Black workers are overrepresented in lower-wage positions within service-oriented industries. More than 70% of Black workers in retail and over 80 percent of those in accommodations and food service earning less than $30,000.

Close to half of Black private-sector workers are in healthcare, retail and accommodation with a large frontline presence. Black workers are more likely to be in positions that have limited opportunity for advancement.

After last summer’s protests, corporations across sectors made commitments to racial justice and equity. Time will tell if words materialize into something more than a PR campaign.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced a resolution for a federal job guarantee that would likely benefit the private sector with increases in physical and human infrastructure.

Targeted strategies in both the private and public sectors must center Black workers. Writing for the Center of Law and Social Policy, Asha Banerjee pointed to the unparalleled crises of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and recession. Banerjee said that decision-makers must not repeat the mistakes of the New Deal and other recovery efforts in the current moment.

“Without deliberate, strategic policies to uplift Black workers now, we risk repeating history,” wrote Banerjee.

Anoa Changa is a movement journalist and retired attorney based in Atlanta. Follow Anoa on Instagram and Twitter @thewaywithanoa.


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