Fishbowl has conducted a cross-industry survey series on the experience of Black professionals in Technology, Law, Consulting, Finance, Accounting and Advertising in partnership with Living Corporate, founded by Zach Nunn, Fishbowl Black Consultants Community Leader.
What It Means To Be Black At Work in 2021
2020 will be looked at as a monumental year in American history. From a once-in-a-century pandemic, to historic environmental disasters that were exacerbated by climate change, to a cataclysmic economic recession, and not least of all, a contentious election held in an especially poisonous political environment, last year was defined by intense disasters and a more stressful lived experience for everyone.
And yet, one moment stands out above all of this – perhaps because in some ways it was largely disconnected in its fomentation from a pandemic or climate disaster, and in other ways because it placed a mirror in front of our civic conscience, imploring every citizen to examine America’s sordid history on matters of race, and how racial inequity is a central character in all of the calamities that we lived through in 2020.
America’s summer of racial reckoning, sparked by the murder of George Floyd, was long overdue and much needed. The intense and seemingly ubiquitous protests against racism it spawned – #BlackLivesMatter became a global rallying cry against institutional racism – caught many off-guard, while for many others, it was an overdue exercise in empowerment and indignation.
Fishbowl’s place amidst all these events was unique. As a social media company with a unique take on identity, professionals turned to Fishbowl to share candidly what they had to say in our new civic conversation, or to confide in communities of professionals who can relate to their lived experience. The multitude of conversations regarding race and racism within the context of professional life make clear that much work remains to be done to make industries and companies more equitable.
The unquestionable reality is that organizations are well served by creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments that attract and retain Black and brown talent. Despite this fact, historically marginalized talent, specifically those across the African diaspora, are underemployed, under-sponsored, overworked and over-mentored. This has been all the more exasperated by a global pandemic, ongoing instances of police brutality gone viral, and racial unrest in the streets. Now more than ever, organizations have the critical responsibility to not talk around the challenges facing Black talent with opaque, esoteric and theoretical solutions, but to hear what Black employees have been saying for years, and to meet the moment by quickly mobilizing solutions.
To that end, Fishbowl partnered with Living Corporate, a coalition of thought leaders dedicated to centering and amplifying Black and brown employees in the workplace through digital media, to create a survey that engaged tens of thousands of Black professionals on Fishbowl, and captured a wide array of experiences and perspectives across several industries. The following insights are directly derived from this survey.
The 6 Survey Categories
Six survey questions have been asked to Fishbowl’s Black communities in Technology, Finance, Consulting, Law, Accounting and Advertising to which professionals responded “True” or “False.” Here are the themes and questions that touch on different aspects of the Black Professional experience:
1. The pressure to change appearance or behavior for Black professionals
Survey question: “I feel pressure to change aspects of my behavior or appearance to fit in with my work place.”
2. Black professionals’ satisfaction with DEI
Survey question: “My company’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives are effective at addressing my needs.”
3. Black professionals feeling safe reporting racism at work
Survey question: “I trust my company to do the right thing if I report that I have experienced racism at work.”
4. The satisfaction with Black representation
Survey question: “I am satisfied with the number of Black professionals at my company.”
5. The confidence in the company to retain Black talent
Survey question: “I believe a recently hired Black employee would stay at my company at least 3 years.”
6. Black professionals’ vouch for the companies they work for
Survey question: “I would recommend working at my company to a Black person in my network.”
1. Survey: The pressure to change appearance or behavior
On average, the large majority of Black professionals feel pressure to change aspects of their behavior or appearance. At the top, the Finance industry has 84% of Black Finance professionals responding “True.” Second came Law with 81.16%, then Accounting with 78% and Consulting with 76.64%.
The Tech and Advertising industries are where Black professionals feel the least pressure to change aspects of their behavior or appearance, still with high numbers with 56.86% of Tech professionals and 67.86% of Black Advertising professionals responding “True.”
2. Survey: Black professionals’ satisfaction with DEI
To find out how each industry handles their DEI initiatives, we posted a statement: “My company’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives are effective at addressing my needs” to which professionals have responded “True” or “False.”
Less than 1 in 4 professionals on average in Tech, Finance, Law, Accounting and Advertising felt like their company’s DEI initiatives were effective, with an average of 23.05%. The industry that felt like their company’s DEI was effective the most was the Tech industry, still with only 32.84%. The second industry was Accounting with 29.13%, followed by Finance with 28.13%.
The Law and Advertising industries were the least satisfied of all industries about their companies’ DEI efforts, with 14.14% of Law professionals and 20% of Advertising professionals responding “True.”
3. Survey: Black professionals feeling safe reporting racism at work
When asked if Black professionals trust their companies to do the right thing if they reported that they’ve experienced racism at work, Finance and Law professionals had the least trust with 7.32% of Black professionals in Finance and 19.67% of Black professionals in Law responding “True” to the statement.
In comparison, the industry that had the highest trust in their companies is Technology, with 47.54% of Black professionals in tech responding favorably, which is still less than 1 of 2 professionals.
In between, Black professionals in Consulting trust their companies to do the right thing at 30.66%; in Advertising, 31.11%; and Accounting at 40.98%.
4. Survey: The satisfaction with Black representation
This is the survey question that scored the lowest on average. A large majority of Black professionals have reported not being satisfied by the number of Black professionals in each industry.
The Advertising industry is the industry that is the least satisfied, with 4.89% being satisfied by the number of Black professionals at work. Not far behind were Black professionals in Law with 5.51% and Consulting with 8%.
The Finance industry scored the highest, still with only 18.18% of being satisfied with the number of Black professionals in Finance. Following that, 15.69% in Technology. In the middle was the Accounting professionals with 11.37%.
5. Survey: The confidence in the company to retain Black talent
Beyond the lip service and PR story that comes with hiring Black talent, what is being said is that companies don’t focus on retention.
Once again, the Advertising and Law industries score the lowest with 21.47% of Black professionals in Advertising and 22.22% in Law believing a Black employee would stay at their company at least 3 years. Finance and Technology have the best sentiment for retention with both 50% of Black professionals responding “True” to the statement. Slightly more than one in three Black professionals in Consulting and Accounting believe in Black talent retention with 33.82% in Consulting and 35.31% in Accounting.
6. Survey: Black professionals’ vouch for the companies they work for
This is the first survey where the Accounting industry scored the highest. When asked if they would recommend a Black person in their network to work at their company, Black professionals in Accounting were 63.37% to respond “True.” Followed by 58.35% of Consultants and 52.27% of Black professionals in Finance.
Law, Technology and Advertising scored the lowest and their Black professionals wouldn’t recommend Black peers to join their companies with 40.79% Black professionals in Law, 45.16% in Technology and 45.58% in Advertising.
Here are additional conversations that help highlight other aspects Black professional experience at work. We are amplifying Black voices for workplaces to gain better consciousness of the challenges they face, to set a foundation for workplaces to find solutions for more equity and belonging for Black professionals.
The pressure to change your appearance when moving up
On Black professionals being under-sponsored and pushed out beyond a diversity hire