On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was arrested in Minneapolis when he allegedly bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Police officers held him down, choking him for nearly 9 minutes until he fell unconscious and died.
The next day, nationwide protests began over how the Minneapolis Police Department handled Floyd’s arrest and the deaths of more than 1,200 African-Americans at the hands of police since 2015. Worldwide protests ensued, with an estimated 200,000 people protesting in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, June 6.
Clutch surveyed 755 workers across the U.S. and found that 62% are supportive of the non-violent protests occurring as a result of the death of George Floyd.
Fewer than one-quarter of workers (23%) say they don’t support the protests.
Should businesses address racism and discrimination in light of the widespread worker support of the protests? If so, how should they respond?
- Employees see racism and discrimination as an issue at workplaces in the U.S. – but not at their workplaces: 76% of U.S. workers think racism and discrimination is a problem at U.S. workplaces, yet only 44% think it’s an issue at their workplace.
- African-American workers are more likely to think racism is a problem at their company: 64% believe racism is a problem at their workplace, compared to 44% of U.S. employees overall.
- Nearly half of workers (49%) say their company has addressed the protests in some form, including releasing public statements (30%), holding open discussions with leadership (19%), and donating to causes (10%).
- Fifty-five percent (55%) of workers think their company should address the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests, including 59% of African-American workers.
- Most employees (65%) are satisfied with how their business has responded to the death of George Floyd and resulting protests, and 29% think their company should do more.
- Younger generations tend to think that discrimination is a problem at workplaces: 55% of millennial and younger workers think it’s a major issue, compared to 42% of Generation Xers and 34% of baby boomers and older.
- Employees at large businesses are more likely to believe racism is an issue at their workplace (54%), compared to employees at small businesses (35%).
- Large businesses are more likely to address the protests (67%) than smaller businesses (34%). Larger businesses have more of an influence on the general public so are more likely to take a stance on issues.
Workers Think Discrimination and Racism Is an Issue at U.S. Workplaces — Just Not Their Own
The majority of U.S. employees (61%) have experienced workplace discrimination either personally or as a witness, yet many workers don’t think there are discriminatory practices at their own company.
About three-quarters of workers (76%) think discrimination is a problem at U.S. companies, compared to 44% who think it’s an issue at their workplace.
Nearly half of workers (43%) think racism and discrimination is a major problem at workplaces, but just 14% say it’s a major problem at their own office.
Nearly two-thirds of African-American workers (64%), however, think their workplace has a problem with racism and discrimination.
Many people who don’t experience racism and discrimination themselves may not realize when they’re discriminating. Known as microaggressions, these “thinly veiled, everyday instances of racism, homophobia, [and] sexism” are prevalent in the working world. This includes insults, comments, and gestures that may not be implied as discriminatory but come across that way to others.
Jes Osrow, talent development expert and speaker on invisible disabilities at JOSROW Consulting, said people don't think their workplace has a problem with racism and discrimination because of “blissful ignorance.”
“Often racism isn't as blatant as what we're seeing in the media now in the workplace,” Osrow said. “It is more an ongoing, system struggle for equity and equality.”
People might think their company doesn’t discriminate but might be missing common microaggressions that people of marginalized groups notice.
Half of U.S. Workers Say Their Company Has Addressed George Floyd’s Death and the Resulting Protests
It’s been more than two weeks since the death of George Floyd, and many U.S. companies are responding to the issue.
Almost half of employees (49%) say their company has addressed the protests in some way.
The most popular response from companies is the release of a public statement (30%), followed by an open discussion with leadership (19%).
Some companies have also:
- Donated to causes (10%)
- Promised to hire a more diverse workforce (7%)
- Made it easier for employees to take time off (6%)
Angel Mills owns Angel Mills Brand Strategy, a marketing agency that specializes in brand development. As a black business owner, Mills believes it’s important for businesses to address the protests and underlying issues.
“I think that it would be extremely tone-deaf and inconsiderate to refuse to acknowledge how the death of George Floyd is affecting the black community specifically and the world at large,” Mills said. “It is imperative that companies speak up and begin to take action to do their part to dismantle racism.”
“It is imperative that companies speak up and begin to take action to do their part to dismantle racism.”
Mills is speaking openly about how the issue is affecting herself, her business, and her clients, and she has shared emails and social media posts relating to the protests in her city of Atlanta.
Mills is also planning a forum for her clients to discuss the issues surrounding George Floyd’s death and how they affect black entrepreneurs.
“I think that we are definitely in the conversation, and that is what I find to be most important,” Mills said.
Companies that speak out against racism and create opportunities for discussion and education may be able to influence future change.
Most Employees Think Their Company Should Actively Address the Death of George Floyd and the Anti-Racism Protests
The majority of workers think it is in their company’s best interest to respond to the race issues that people are protesting.
Just over half (55%) of employees think their company has a role in addressing George Floyd’s death and the resulting protests.
African-Americans are more likely to think their company should address the issues brought to light from the protests — 59% expect their company to respond to the death of George Floyd and resulting protests.
Employees have different preferences for how their business should respond, though.
When asked which method they most preferred companies use to respond to the protests, employees said:
- Hold an open discussion with leadership (15%)
- Promise to hire a more diverse workforce (14%)
- Donate to causes (11%)
- Release a public statement about its stance (8%)
- Make it easier to take time away from the office (4%)
Cassady Dill is the publicist for marketing and advertising firm Market Like A Nerd. The company’s CEO Amanda Goldman-Petri held a discussion with employees about the issue of racism, sent a company-wide email, and let employees take time off to protest or work on their mental health.
Dill, an African-American, said Goldman-Petri’s actions helped her feel respected at her company.
“Work was a safe place to come to, and I actually felt like I belonged and felt valued in a way I hadn’t before,” Dill said. “Since Amanda has done all this, I find myself being able to ‘show up’ authentically. … I now know that conflicts or issues, should they ever arise, have absolutely nothing with my being black.”
“I now know that conflicts or issues, should they ever arise, have absolutely nothing with my being black.”
Goldman-Petri’s actions let Dill know that she has a place at the company and that racism is not tolerated. Most employees want their business to do the same.
Employees Are Satisfied With How Their Business Has Responded to the Anti-Racism Protests
People think their company has done enough to address the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests.
Two-thirds of workers (65%) say their company has done the right amount, and just 6% say their company has done too much.
Twenty-nine percent (29%) think their company has done too little to address the death of George Floyd and resulting protests.
Mills recommends companies address racism directly instead of discrimination as a whole.
“One mistake I am noticing companies make is that they are addressing inequality at large but not addressing the types of racial oppression that affect the black community specifically,” Mills said. “I think [addressing inequality overall] is a way to acknowledge the issues without actually acknowledging racism, which is another problem within itself.”
“I think [addressing inequality overall] is a way to acknowledge the issues without actually acknowledging racism, which is another problem within itself.”
If companies decide to continue to address racism, they should not shy away from discussing specific issues that affect the black community.
Younger Workers Think Discrimination Is a Problem at Workplaces in the U.S.
The older a worker is, the less likely he is to believe racism and discrimination is an issue at workplaces across the U.S. and in his own workplace.
Thirty-four percent (34%) of baby boomer and older workers think discrimination is a major problem at U.S. workplaces, compared to 42% of Generation Xers and 55% of millennials and younger.
Just 12% of baby boomer and older and 13% of Generation X workers think discrimination is a major issue in their own workplace, compared to 20% of millennials and younger.
“Millennials have access to information and voices in ways that previous generations never did,” Osrow said. “Millennials have the ability to more quickly create and build foundations of positive change.”
“Millennials have the ability to more quickly create and build foundations of positive change.”
Younger generations are more likely to take a stand against racism, so they are more likely to think it’s a problem at both workplaces across the U.S. and their own workplace.
Employees at Larger Businesses Think Racism Is an Issue at Their Workplace
People who work for smaller companies tend to believe that racism and discrimination isn’t an issue at their workplace.
Two-thirds of businesses with 2 to 500 employees (35%) believe that racism is an issue at their workplace, compared to 54% of businesses with more than 500 employees.
Employees also widely believe that racism is a problem at U.S. workplaces in general, regardless of the size of their company.
Smaller companies tend to take an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to their processes and involve more people in key decisions. This makes it easier for all employees to take on new processes and advance.
Larger companies, on the other hand, make it more difficult for employees to advance. There are just four black CEOs on the 2020 Fortune 500 list, and the highest-ranked one is Marvin Ellison, of Lowe’s, at 44.
Small companies make it easier for employees to take on more work, which may be why employees think they’re less discriminatory than large companies.
Larger Businesses More Likely to Address George Floyd’s Death and the Black Lives Matter Protests
Large businesses are more likely to take a stance on the protests about systemic racism and George Floyd’s death than smaller companies, according to employees.
Two-thirds of businesses with more than 500 employees (67%) have addressed the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests. Just 34% of businesses with 2-500 employees have done the same.
Most large companies with more than 500 employees (51%) have released a public statement about their stance on racism and the actions they plan to take to address it, compared to just 14% of businesses with 2-500 employees.
More large companies have also held an open discussion with leadership (28%) than small companies (13%).
Larger companies are often more established and have more of an influence on society.
“Certain brands hold a global influence on levels an individual may not be able to contemplate,” said Shayan Fatani, digital marketing strategist of PureVPN, a personal VPN service. “We have the power of our words to delegitimize any teaching that provokes a hateful or violent behavior.”
“We have the power of our words to delegitimize any teaching that provokes a hateful or violent behavior.”
Large businesses may understand that they have a role in societal change. Many of the country’s largest corporations have stood up for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Amazon, for example, changed its website header to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also posted in support of the movement on his personal Instagram account, which has 2 million followers.
Amazon’s actions, along with those of others from companies such as Nike, Twitter, and Citigroup show that larger companies are using their influence to push for change.
Businesses Are Taking a Stance on Protests About Racism and Police Funding That Resulted From the Death of George Floyd
Most U.S. workers support the protests that resulted from the death of George Floyd and systemic racism and believe that businesses should address the issues of racism brought to light from his death.
Businesses are responding differently to the protests, including releasing public statements, holding open discussions with employees, and donating to causes, and employees are satisfied overall with how their company has handled the protests.
Most people think discrimination and racism is a problem at workplaces across the U.S., but many are blind to problems at their own company. Businesses should address the issue of racism head-on and reflect on how they can better their own company’s practices.
If you would like more information about how you can educate yourself about the history of racism in the U.S. and how to address it and get involved in influencing change, we recommend the following resources:
- Smithsonian Magazine: 158 Resources to Understand Racism in America
- History: Black History Milestones: Timeline
- PBS: How to Talk to Your Kids About Anti-Racism: A List of Resources
- Harvard Business Review: U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism
- JUST Capital: What Companies Can Do to Combat Systemic Racism Against Black Colleagues in the Workplace
- Race Forward: What Is Systemic Racism?
- Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: Economic and Racial Justice