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Awkward questions are the first step to a racially equal workplace

David Craig
David Craig
Group Head of Data & Analytics for LSEG and CEO of Refinitiv

To mark the publication of Refinitiv‘s 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Report, David Craig, CEO of Refinitiv, shares his thoughts on how we can turbocharge action on racial inequality in particular. It all starts with data.

  1. Data on employees’ ethnicity is rarely collected by companies outside the U.S.
  2. Companies are therefore flying blind when trying to address racial inequalities in their workforce
  3. Refinitiv’s ESG database will soon incentivize companies to be more transparent on race.

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Has your employer ever asked: ‘what race are you’? If the answer is ‘yes’ then they are wading into deeply personal territory, bound up with feelings of identity and history … which is probably why most prefer not to.

Despite that, later this month we are putting the question to the 18,000 people who work at Refinitiv as part of a voluntary survey that will also seek to gather information on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, disabilities and other personal details.

This is not an exercise in nosiness. It’s about fairness and seeking to right the wrongs exposed by the murders of George Floyd and other innocents, and a response to the demonstrations that continue. It could yet turn out to be one of the most important messages I send as chief executive and, if other companies do likewise, the start of something significant in the fight for racial justice.

Discover the 2020 top 100 most and inclusive companies globally according to to the Refinitiv Diversity & Inclusion Index (D&I) ratings

Why? Because Refinitiv, like most companies, currently lacks accurate data to build an understanding of our racial composition – data we need to gauge how we are doing on hiring, nurturing and promoting people of color. I’m proud of the action we’re already taking to create a more representative leadership team and to root out unconscious bias. But having this detailed ethnicity data takes us much further by enabling change right across the organization.

Refinitiv's Key Factors Driving Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces report

Today Refinitiv publishes our 2020 Diversity & Inclusion Report, based on data gathered from almost 10,000 companies across the globe (together accounting for more than 80% of global market cap).

Since 2016, this report has shown what the corporate world can achieve on D&I when it has granular data to act upon. Having information on the proportion of women at different grades has boosted efforts to create a more equal workplace from a gender perspective. For example, in 2014, 25% of managers were women globally, but that figure has slowly climbed to 28%. Over the same time period the proportion of women on boards has gone from 13% to 19%. At Refinitiv, I’m proud to say we are now at 40%.

Achieving this progress on equality for women has only been possible because governments around the world now require companies to collect this data. By contrast few apply the same requirement when it comes to race (the U.S. being one major exception). As a result, the data just isn’t there. As a result the closest comparison we can make in our Diversity & Inclusion report is to look at the proportion of a company’s executives born outside the country in which it is domiciled. That doesn’t go far enough, but we can collectively solve the challenge.

Partly, the solution will come from pressure being felt by governments to play catch-up on disclosure around race in the workplace, but we can’t relying on the machinery of government alone.

Our greater hope is that companies can be encouraged to start collecting and publishing data on their racial composition by the likes of Refinitiv once they understand it is both ‘the right thing to do’ and in their financial self-interest.

Our ESG data team, under Elena Philipova, is working hard on new metrics that assign a higher ESG score to companies that disclose this ethnicity data. That provides an incentive to companies who want to catch the eye of ESG-hungry investors and allows them to burnish their D&I credentials to employees, customers regulators and the wider public. Our Diversity & Inclusion Index, also out now, spotlights the best of the bunch: listing the world’s 100 most diverse and inclusive companies and showcasing some of the great work they are doing.

It will take guts for companies to act. Employers’ inclination not to pry is a powerful deterrent. Set against this discomfort must be the realization that, without hard data on companies’ racial make-up, the corporate world will struggle to fulfill the promise it made earlier this year … to create a fair workplace for all.

Powered by our environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data, our Diversity and Inclusion Index is designed to measure the relative performance of companies against factors that define diverse and inclusive workplaces.

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