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Big Mass. companies fall short on Black, Hispanic hiring

Labor Dept. data for 17 firms show median of just 14% of jobs

Kenneth J. Cooper

Most major Massachusetts-based companies that allowed their workforce data to be released employed Blacks and Hispanics at lower percentages than their combined share of the state’s population, according to an analysis by the Banner and Northeastern University.

For the 17 companies analyzed, the median percentage of Black and Hispanic employees was 14% in about 2020, the latest data available from the federal government for most of the companies. In the 2020 census, these two racial-ethnic groups comprised 31% of Massachusetts’ population.

The workforces of only three companies, including two that provide human services, exceeded the Black-Hispanic proportion of the state population, according to the U.S. Department of Labor data.

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Five Star Senior Living, with 47%, is one of the nation’s largest operators of assisted living communities for the elderly. Bright Horizons Family Solutions, at 45%, provides preschool and early education. The third is in the technology sector. At Iron Mountain, which provides data storage and information management, 40% of employees were Black or Hispanic.

The state’s population is an inexact baseline for comparison because some of the state’s largest companies recruit or employ people across the country, making the labor market they collectively draw from difficult to define with greater precision. But most companies hire most workers from near the place of employment.

“The U.S. Department of Labor data paints a clear picture of why our advocacy and programming are so necessary: Massachusetts corporations and industries must increase the diversity of their workforce to properly reflect the communities they serve both here in Massachusetts and globally,” said Rahsaan D. Hall,  president and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.

“Despite having world-renowned institutions of higher education throughout the Commonwealth, data trends show that Black and Latino residents in Massachusetts are underrepresented in our colleges and universities as well as our top industries,” Hall added in his statement to the Banner.

Companies with at least 100 employees and federal contractors with at least 50 are required to file a form called an EEO-1 with the federal government each year detailing their workforces by race, ethnicity, gender and job category. The filings started under an executive order issued by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 mandating federal contractors take “affirmative action” to diversify their workforces, and have broadened since then to help track corporate compliance with equal opportunity in hiring laws.

The Banner in April submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Department of Labor for the most recent EEO-1 form and one from five years earlier for 55 Massachusetts-based companies, drawn from published lists of the state’s largest by employment or revenue.

The 17 companies that permitted the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to release their forms are federal contractors that must comply with Johnson’s executive order. Analysis on the data was conducted in a collaboration between the Banner, Northeastern public policy professor Ted Landsmark and Stephanie Graber, a Northeastern graduate student in public policy.

The companies whose employment data was obtained include defense manufacturer Raytheon, financial institutions Chase and State Street, biotech innovators Moderna and Biogen, and the Kraft Group, owner of the New England Patriots.

Data for most of those 17 companies is being made public for the first time.

Two dozen federal contractors blocked the release of their forms, invoking an allowed exemption for information they deem confidential or trade secrets. Those companies whose employment data were not made public include some of the state’s best-known brands, among them Dunkin, General Electric, Gillette, MassMutual Life, Putnam, Staples, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Vertex and Wayfair.

Large American companies almost universally profess a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, but without transparency about the composition of their workforces, it is impossible to ascertain how far they have come in reaching those goals.

Forms for the remaining 14 companies could not be found at the Labor Department, primarily because they are not federal contractors. Those 14, if they have 100 or more employees, would file to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but copies of the EEO-1 forms submitted to that federal agency are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Of the 17 companies whose EEO-1 forms were released to the Banner, three showed Black-Hispanic employment percentages in single digits.

Johnson Controls, which merged with Canton-based Tyco in 2016 and makes electronic equipment for buildings, had the least, with 6%. The Black-Hispanic employee figure was 7% at Analog Devices, Inc., a semiconductor manufacturer in Wilmington, and 8% at RMR Group, an alternative asset management firm in Newton.

Others below the group’s median Black-Hispanic employment rate of 14% were Kraft in Foxborough (13%), medical imaging device maker Hologic Inc. in Marlborough (12%) and Yankee Candle Co. in South Deerfield, which has closed (11%).

Two companies hit the median: Boston Scientific, which produces medical devices, and Globe Partners, an energy supply company in Waltham.

Companies whose Black-Hispanic employment fell above the median of 14% but below the Black-Hispanic state population figure of 31% were State Street (25%), Chase (19%), Raytheon (18%), Biogen (17%) and Steward Health Care, the owner of private hospitals including Carney Hospital in Dorchester (16%).

One upward trend showed that six of the 17 companies saw their percentage of Black and Hispanic employees increase between 2016 and 2020: Analog, Biogen, Boston Scientific, Hologic, Iron Mountain and Raytheon.

The last year of that period coincided with the mass demonstrations in Boston and around the country following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. At that time, many American companies reaffirmed and emphasized their commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, with some promising funding designed to help close the wide gap in the economic status of African Americans and whites.

Hall said, “Diversifying the workforce takes partnership between all of us,” citing as promising initiatives the Urban League’s coding academy for people without a college degree and MassBio’s Bioversity, created to train local residents in biotech and life sciences.

“These are a great example of what is possible when industry, civic leaders and service providers are intentional about addressing racial disparities in employment,” he added.    

Black workforce, Black-Hispanic employment, Hispanic workforce, jobs, labor