To solve a problem, you need to understand it. That’s why McKinsey recently embarked on an extensive research effort to characterize Black Americans’ experience in the US workplace. We analyzed data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Census Bureau, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and other sources. We augmented that analysis with data from 24 companies representing 3.7 million US employees, learning about the employee experience of those people through interviews, focus groups, and surveys.
The scale of the issues facing Black US workers is massive, and the roots of the problem are deep. As a recent article explained, “Inequality is baked deep into our current capitalist society.”1 Many researchers see the challenges as rooted in the socioeconomic and racial history of the United States.
We believe that companies that hope to make meaningful progress face ten key challenges. Achieving equity for Black workers in the private sector requires addressing the challenges on many fronts, including geography, industry, job type, and everyday workplace and culture challenges. Given the scale and complexity of the challenges, companies will need to work together to see material changes. And they will have to act more boldly than they have done in the past.
The impact of greater access to opportunity and advancement would be far reaching for the 15 million Black US workers currently engaged in the private sector. The challenges and the opportunities we outline are developed in greater detail in the full report of our research, Race in the workplace: The Black experience in the US private sector. Our hope is that companies and other stakeholders will use our work as the basis for the development of initiatives to accelerate progress toward a more diverse labor force and an inclusive and equitable private-sector experience for Black workers—and all workers.
Note: This story covers 8 of these 10 challenges. “One move companies can take to improve diversity” covers point 2 and point 3.