Starbucks and Other Companies Pledge to Increase Their Minority Workforce

By Elijah Labby Monday, October 19, 2020

International coffee giant Starbucks has promised that at least 30% of all levels of its workforce will consist of minority individuals by 2025.

The pledge is part of a larger push for ethnic diversity by the company, which is beginning a mentorship program that seeks to connect minority employees more closely with senior management, mandate anti-bias training for executives, and distribute anti-bias materials for hiring and performance evaluation processes.

Starbucks COO Roz Brewer said the steps, while important, would require time and effort before seeing results.

“They aren’t slam dunks,” she said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “They are going to take some work.”

In 2018, the company landed in hot water after the arrest of two black men who were waiting in the restaurant for a business associate. One of the men had asked if he could use the restroom but was denied access because he did not purchase anything. When the men refused to leave, the store manager called the police.

In response, the company closed over eight thousand stores for “implicit bias training,” which cost the company a reported $12 million in lost profits.

Starbucks’ most recent move comes in the wake of widespread protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rashard Brooks, among others, and Starbucks is but one of many companies taking steps to address possible racism within its workforce.

“We have a responsibility to build bridges and create environments where all are welcome. Our journey continues as we are guided by intentionality, transparency and accountability,” said CEO Kevin Johnson in an email to employees.

Companies as large as Apple, Microsoft, and Netflix are also pledging millions of dollars and increased effort for minority hiring practices.

In June, Microsoft said it would contribute $150 million to its existing diversity and inclusion initiative, as well as “double the number of Black and African American people managers, senior individual contributors, and senior leaders in the United States by 2025.”

“This is not a one-time event. It will require real work and focus. We will listen and learn. We will take feedback and we will adjust. But it starts with each of us making a commitment to do the work, to help drive change, and to act with intention,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a company-wide email.

Similarly, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook announced a $100 million donation to social justice movements across the country.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, said the company would provide $175 million to black-owned businesses and increase minority staff by 30% by 2025.

“Listening to the personal accounts of members of our Black Advisory Leadership Group and our Black+ Googlers has only reinforced for me the reality our Black communities face: One where systemic racism permeates every aspect of life, from interactions with law enforcement, to access to housing and capital, to health care, education, and the workplace,” Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a company-wide memo.

However, despite increased attention to ethnic diversity in the workplace, employees nationwide say they have not seen much substantive change in the last year.

A survey from the business news website The Manifest found that 78% of Americans have not seen any change in their company’s diversity makeup in the past twelve months. Bisma Farrukh, who works as a marketer at an insurance company, told the surveyors that the workforce has not been given sufficient time to make changes in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Additionally, she said that COVID-19 and the subsequent economic downturn has made hiring a more diverse workplace difficult.

Despite this, the poll shows that a diverse workforce is important to the majority of young workers.

It found that 57% of millennial workers see diversity as a benefit to their sense of belonging, as opposed to less than half of Baby Boomer and Gen X employees.

Julia Spence, business development manager at biotech startup LivaFortis, told the pollsters that her company’s five employees are all from different countries, which provides the office with various experiences and views.

"In meetings, we all have unique experiences to draw on," Spence said. "We can take the best ideas from different countries and continents and be highly innovative."


About the Author

Headshot for author Elijah Labby

Elijah Labby is a graduate of the National Journalism Center. He has previously written for Broadband Breakfast, a technology and internet policy website.

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