NEW YORK, NY – The tragic murder of George Floyd in May 2020 led to a massive outcry for racial justice across America. Since then, companies have placed an emphasis on improving their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices. To inform investors and other stakeholders increasingly pushing for stronger DEI practices, a first-of-its-kind study from Columbia Business School Professor Thomas Bourveau looks at the recent release of a large number of government contractors’ EEO-1 forms – mandatory reports which break down gender and racial/ethnic composition of a company’s workforce by job category. The study finds that companies are significantly lacking in both gender and racial diversity, especially among middle managers and executives, and that less diverse companies withhold publicly disclosing their DEI practices. This research not only provides a detailed look at the diversity landscape for public companies in the U.S., but also shows that pressure from market participants does not induce all companies to disclose their diversity metrics. This suggests that policy measures, like a disclosure mandate, may be needed to make this information accessible to the public and drive change.
Professor Thomas Bourveau’s study, Behind the EEO Curtain, reveals that racial and ethnic minorities are vastly underrepresented in the workforce, especially among middle managers and executives. Racial minorities account for 36% of firms’ overall workforce, but they only account for 28% of middle managers. The most striking disparities are for Black employees, who comprise 8% of the overall workforce but just 4% of middle managers. Additionally, by looking at whether companies chose to voluntarily disclose their EEO-1 reports, Professor Thomas Bourveau and his co-authors, Rachel Flam of London Business School, and Columbia Business School doctoral student Anthony Le ’25 find that companies with higher levels of racial and ethnic diversity among managers are more likely to publicly disclose their EEO-1 reports.
“It’s a positive thing that diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in the workforce are becoming more important to stakeholders,” said Thomas Bourveau, Associate Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, “But our findings show that most companies are way behind where they should be when it comes to managerial ranks.”
For this study, Professor Bourveau and his coauthors used recently released EEO-1 forms from public companies classified as federal contractors to create a dataset based on just over 3,000 companies. Then, using the CRSP-Compustat universe, a comprehensive database of financial and market information on companies, they matched federal contractors whose EEO-1 reports were released. The researchers created visuals to represent the data and to paint a comprehensive picture of workforce diversity among federal contractors. They then assessed whether the companies’ decision to publicly release their EEO filings on their websites relates to the degree of diversity of their workforce.
Additional Findings Include:
- EEO-1 Report Disclosure Has Drastically Increased, but Still Remains Low: Between 2016 and 2020, the rate of publicly traded federal contractors that voluntarily disclosed EEO-1 reports increased from 0.8% to 15%.
- While Overall Workforce Diversity Lags for Both Gender and Race/Ethnicity, the Latter Influences Disclosure: They find no evidence that the proportion of female employees overall and at the manager level influences a company’s disclosure decision, but companies with higher overall and managerial diversity are much more likely to disclose their EEO-1 reports.
- Industry Peers Influence Companies’ Decision to Disclose: The study finds that companies are more likely to disclose EEO-1 reports when their racial/ethnic diversity outperforms their industry, showing that industry peers play a role in the decision to disclose.
“This research makes clear that policymakers should consider taking action. A disclosure mandate requiring companies to publicly disclose their EEO-1 forms would help empower stakeholders (e.g., investors, customers, and employees) to advance diversity. This is especially important right now as more people are beginning to make consumer and investment decisions based on diversity,” said Professor Bourveau.
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