Major U.S. Corporations are planning their corporate citizenship for 2022, with a staggering 94% committing to increasing or maintaining their charitable giving for the year.  The driving force behind this generosity is social issues—specifically racial equity.

While giving dollars to nonprofits committed to antiracism is better than doing nothing, perhaps a better place to start is with what corporations are doing (and not doing) to help create an internal culture of inclusivity.

The average pay gap—how much more white people earn than BIPOC—is 26.87%.  In some states (Rhode Island; Mississippi) the gap exceeds 54%, and even the best-performing state (Washington) has white people earning 5.40% more.

Instead of addressing the core issues surrounding racial equity, corporations will donate vast sums of cash to nonprofits.  This literal passing of the buck means that companies are paying charities to fix the problems they are creating.

Perhaps a better investment would be to rebuild work in a way that offers everyone equal access to progress.

A good starting point would be to redesign compensation to be more impactful for everyone.  Currently, corporations offer matching incentives and make big investments in defined-contribution retirement plans, like 401(k)s.  At an average matching contribution of $3,560/year, a 500-person company is pouring about $1.8 million into retirement plans, where whites have more than double the wealth of Blacks and Hispanics.

Instead of giving to charity, why not invest in programs that would drive more equitable outcomes?  Debt relief, financial coaching and co-working, credit improvement, and emergency financial assistance would all help the employees who are more concerned about putting food on the table than their retirement account balance.

Offering working hours/location flexibility, reducing the importance of rather useless degrees, helping employees meet the rising costs of housing and health care, and even transportation assistance can all help level the playing field.

Adding benchmarks for workforce inclusion is also essential.  Consider the following accountability metrics, put together by Colorado Inclusive Economy:

 

Metric Description Data Collected Calculation (the “/” means “divided by”)
Overall Diversity # of employees Total number of employees by race, ethnicity, and gender/total number of employees
Recruiting # of applicants Total number of applicants by race, ethnicity, and gender/total number of applicants
Hiring # of hires Total number of hires by race, ethnicity, and gender/total number of hires AND Total number of hires by race, ethnicity, and gender/total number of applicants by race, ethnicity, and gender
% Terminated or Retained # of employees terminated Total number employees by race, ethnicity, and gender voluntarily terminated/total number of employees by race, ethnicity, and gender AND total number of employees by race, ethnicity, and gender involuntarily terminated/total number of employees by race, ethnicity, and gender
% in leadership # of leaders Total number of leaders by race, ethnicity, and gender/total number of employees by race, ethnicity, and gender
% Promoted # of employees promoted Total number of employees promoted by race, ethnicity, and gender/total number of employees by race, ethnicity and gender
Fair Compensation Median wage Median wage by race, ethnicity and gender/median wage of all employees
# of Apprentices # of Apprentices Total number of Apprentices by race, ethnicity, and gender/total number of Apprentices
% of jobs below $45K, from $45K-$68K, and above $68K # of employees below $45K, from $45K-$68K, and above $68K Total number of employees by race, ethnicity, and gender within 3 salary groups (below $45K, from $45K-$68K, and above $68K)/total number of employees by race, ethnicity, and gender
% with benefits # employees with benefits Total number of employees by race, ethnicity, and gender with benefits/total number of employees by race, ethnicity, and gender

 

These ideas can be taken a step further to measure employee outcomes like net disposable income, debt-to-income ratio, net worth, and home ownership.  On an individual level, companies could ask how work is empowering people to achieve their unique definition of success, improve their mental and physical health, live out their purpose, and build meaningful relationships.

None of this needs to be overly complicated, which is why it is so sad it has not happened yet.

As corporations struggle to attract, develop, and retain talent, perhaps the best place to find opportunity is not in the outside world, but the internal practices that have disincentivized work for so many people.