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Opinion
Joan C. Williams

Companies Have the Tools to Fight Racism. Will They Use Them?

Public statements of solidarity are good. A level playing field for employees is better.

Do too many of your meetings still look like this?

Do too many of your meetings still look like this?

Photographer: Fritz Goro/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

I keep getting emails from companies saying they stand in solidarity with black Americans and oppose racism. Super, glad to hear it. My reaction, though: What’s the racial makeup of your board of directors? Who succeeds in your organization? Who gets promoted? The social display of empathy is a good first step, but it’s time for corporations to do more.

Research I’ve led in industry after industry shows just how much work remains to be done. Our surveys of lawyers, architects and engineers confirm that the experience of black professional women diverges dramatically from that of white men. For example, only 15% of white male architects feel they have to work twice as hard to get the same level of recognition as their colleagues; 71% of black women do.