Georgia’s big businesses reveal staff — and management — diversity

More big companies disclose race, gender of workforce, bosses
The skyline of Midtown is visible on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Christine Tannous /

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The skyline of Midtown is visible on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Christine Tannous /

Georgia’s biggest companies recently began publicly disclosing what had been closely guarded secrets: details on the racial makeup of their U.S. workforces, including management.

The revelations show metro Atlanta’s public corporate powerhouses, from Coca-Cola to Home Depot, generally get whiter higher up the management ladder. Bosses are less likely to be Black or Latino compared with lower-ranking workers and the overall population.

Many of the companies aren’t where they say they want to be. Meanwhile, the nation’s population — and future workforce — is expected to grow increasingly diverse.

Coke reported having seven Black executives among its 118 most senior executives based in the U.S. last year. PulteGroup, a major homebuilder in an industry where Hispanic workers are a crucial part of the labor pool, showed a single Latino executive among the 72 people in upper management.

Women, regardless of race, also continue to be left behind. At Aflac, women account for 65% of the Columbus-based insurer’s total U.S. staff, but only 18% of its senior leaders.

Aflac, with its global headquarters in Columbus, warned about the likelihood of declining sales as areas where it does business wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic and government restrictions. (Hyosub Shin /

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The general pattern appears to be similar at some other large U.S. companies, said Don Tomaskovic-Devey, who directs the Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

That picture has only recently become more clear. He and others predict the unprecedented level of new disclosures will help speed up what has been a fitful, decades-long drive to include more minorities and women at all levels of big business.

Advocates say what gets measured, gets managed. And public measurements keep heat on companies that have committed to broaden their ranks.

For years, employers with at least 100 employees have been required to file annual reports with the federal government showing the racial, ethnic and gender makeup of their employee base at 10 different job levels. But the information in the so-called EEO-1 reports isn’t made public without companies’ consent.

“Until the last few years, most major firms have not been transparent about what their labor force looks like,” Tomaskovic-Devey said.

Pressure to share more surged in the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests. The efforts were boosted by big investors, advocacy groups and even companies’ own staff, including executives. Regulators contemplated requiring more disclosures to shareholders, and chief executive officers scrambled to beef up diversity efforts.

At least 82 of the 100 largest U.S. public companies have disclosed workforce diversity data this year, a sharp increase from last year, according to JUST Capital, an organization that measures corporate actions on issues such as diversity.

Home Depot has built three distribution facilities in Locust Grove and is one of huge companies leveraging the surge of online orders during the pandemic. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Credit: Jenni Girtman

Among the 10 largest public companies based in Georgia, measured by revenue, at least six have recently revealed their EEO-1 data or said they will shortly. That includes Coke, UPS, Aflac, PulteGroup, Home Depot, and Southern Co., the parent of Georgia Power.

Delta Air Lines makes public a quarterly diversity report about its workforce, but it isn’t as detailed as EEO-1 reports. WestRock and Genuine Parts provide even fewer details. Mohawk Industries didn’t respond to requests for comment but the company doesn’t appear to readily provide in-depth public data about race and ethnicity, based on a scan of its corporate website.

Teri McClure was promoted to UPS’s lofty management committee in 2006, the first Black woman to serve at that level, among the top 10 or so executives for the delivery giant. She was general counsel and retired in 2019 as chief of human resources.

“The vast majority of my experience was very encouraging,” she said. But while diversity at companies “might be better than it was,” she added, “it’s not nearly as representative as it should be.”

She describes the recent disclosures by companies as an important way to hold leaders accountable and put focus on the issue. But she wishes there didn’t have to be forced attention on the numbers, rather than on the shifts in thinking and other steps that could bring about lasting change.

“That is the sad part to me,” she said. “The most important thing is creating environments where this happens naturally.”

Many companies say that across their ranks they want to mirror the makeup of the nation or the communities where they operate. By most measures, they aren’t there yet.

Black people account for more than a third of metro Atlanta’s population and about 13% of the nation as a whole.

Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta (DAVID BARNES / AJC File Photo)

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At Coca-Cola last year, Black employees held 19% of the company’s overall jobs in the U.S. and 13% of middle management posts, but only about 6% of senior management positions.

Both UPS and Aflac have a higher percentage of Black people in upper management than the U.S. population. But the share of Hispanic or Latino workers in the senior executive ranks is half what is it for each company’s overall workforce. And their executive ranks aren’t as diverse, in terms of Black or Latino people, as the population of Georgia.

Using a federally defined job category, Black leaders held 20% of the senior executive posts at UPS, 16% of those at Aflac, and 4% of those at PulteGroup, according to the companies.

Southern Co. and Home Depot said they expect to disclose their EEO-1 data later this year. In the meantime, Home Depot reported that Black executives made up 10% of its officers.

Delta, which hasn’t committed to publicly sharing its EEO-1 data, reported in August that Black leaders hold 7% of its vice president and higher slots. The airline provided a single category for “other ethnic minorities.”

Some of the other companies show at least as large proportions of Asian employees in senior leadership ranks in line with Georgia’s general population.

But women of any race hold fewer than a third of the executive jobs within two reporting levels of the CEOs at Coke, Aflac, PulteGroup and UPS, where Carol Tomé, the only current female CEO among Georgia’s 18 Fortune 500 companies, was hired last year.

Companies say they are taking a variety of steps to increase diversity. WestRock said it has tied a portion of top executives’ pay to making progress on inclusion plans. PulteGroup reported enhancing its college recruiting programs and refining onboarding and training programs for employees. Last year, Delta said it would double the percentage of Black senior executives and board directors by 2025. Coke set goals to have its U.S. employees at all job levels align with the nation’s race and ethnicity makeup by 2030.

7/9/18 - Atlanta - UPS is finishing construction of its southeast ground hub on the west side of Atlanta. Jenna Eason /


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UPS last year created the role of chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, a position reporting directly to the CEO. And it increased the presence of minorities and women on its board of directors. The company said it considers its diversity and inclusion efforts “a strategic imperative” and said success will help the company “attract, advance and retain the best talent, drive innovation and exceed our financial targets.”

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, using the influence of big, public retirement systems that invest in publicly traded companies, was among those pressing employers to disclose more diversity data. In an emailed statement he commended companies such as Home Depot, Coke and UPS “for their responsiveness.”

“But we have more to do,” he wrote.

Over time, organizations like JUST Capital can use disclosures to keep track of corporate performance, said Yusuf George, the managing director of programs. “It is the first step. It is not the silver bullet to get us there. But it is one important element of how change begins to happen.”

McClure, the former UPS human resources chief, said when CEOs truly care about an issue, “that’s what gets done.”

One basic hurdle to increasing minority representation in management is to get past the natural bias that people have toward people who look and act most like them, she said. That can affect who gets promoted. If people of color don’t see that they or people like them are being considered for promotions, they’ll leave, she said.

Chloe Barzey is the Atlanta office managing director of technology consulting giant Accenture. The local office includes operations in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. Photo courtesy of Accenture.

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Chloe Barzey, who is the Atlanta office managing director for technology consulting giant Accenture, said companies have to be intentional about not only hiring but also sponsoring diverse candidates in their ranks. Among the steps the company has taken: creating apprenticeship programs to bring in workers who don’t have traditional four-year college degrees in technology fields.

Barzey, who is a Black woman, said she considers the diversity disclosures a bold move by companies, including her own.

“For us, it is a way to hold our company accountable. It’s a way to hold our leaders accountable,” she said.