Americans report progress on workplace racism, but a long way to go

Two charts. Chart 1 is titled, "Has your employer taken action in 2020 to address racism where it exists in your organization." Responses: 20% Yes, they have taken action. 17% Yes, they have committed to act. 14% They have expressed support but not yet acted. 17% No, they have neither expressed support nor acted. 6% No, it has not been discussed internally. 25% I do not think there is racism in my organization. Chart 2 is titled, "What difference, if any, does your connection with your employer's purpose and mission make to how engaged you feel in your role at work? Responses: 20% Much more engaged, 31% more engaged, NET 51% were more engaged, 44% No difference at all, 4% Less engaged, 2% Much less engaged.

Americans report progress on workplace racism, but a long way to go

Many Americans report that their employer has made progress in 2020 on workplace diversity, inclusion, and racism, according to a survey recently conducted by Reputation Leaders.

The full report can be accessed for free here: Purpose Diversity and Racism – US Workers Nov 9 2020

A survey of 1000 U.S. adults nationally found that nearly half (46%) of U.S. workers think their employer has made progress on diversity & inclusion in the last year. 37% of U.S. workers say employers have acted or committed to act to address racism.

However, not all workers or employers are convinced, with a quarter (26%) of workers saying their employer has not acted on diversity and inclusion. A similar one quarter (25%) of U.S. workers do not think that racism exists in the organizations they work for.

Race plays a role in perceptions of progress, with 46% of Black African American workers reporting employers’ progress on racism. In comparison, 33% of White women workers (25% of White men) do not think that racism exists in the organizations they work for.

What is more, more than 4 in 5 workers (84%) whose organization has taken action to address racism feel proud to be working for their employer. The same is true for only 2 in 5 (42%) of those who say no action has been taken.

Younger generations feel more positive about their employer’s progress on diversity and inclusion in the last year. 63% of Gen Z and 56% of Millennials say progress has been made while a lesser 32% of Boomers feel the same.

The top 2 issues that Americans expected employers to ‘walk the talk’ in the workplace were racial equality (45%) and gender equality (39%). Joint third issues were LGBTQ+ (29%) and disability inclusion (29%).

Do workers care about an employer’s commitment to purpose? Half say yes.

An employer’s purpose can take worker engagement to a higher level, with a company’s purpose making 51% of U.S. workers feel more engaged at work and 2 in 5 (42%) employees prouder to work there.

“Employers who address race and gender inequality in the workplace can expect a more engaged workforce, which can lead to higher productivity,” said Reputation Leaders CEO Laurence Evans. “It shows there is a business case for advancing diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace while being realistic that this is a journey with a long way to go for most employers.”

Importantly, for employers looking to win the talent war among a younger workforce, connection to purpose makes Gen Z/Millennials (58%) feel more engaged in their work than it does for Baby Boomers (37%).


Using the ThoughtBite™ framework, Reputation Leaders ran a U.S. national online study to explore consumer opinions amid the COVID-19 pandemic from September 28-30, 2020. Interviews were conducted among 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and over, matching the U.S. demographic profile by age, gender, and region. Results were compared with a previous wave from April 20-21, 2020.