The JUST Report: Fixing Corporate America’s “Broken Rung”  

(Luis Alvarez/Getty Images)

A few weeks ago, our team published a survey report that showed a large majority of the American public is feeling the rising cost of child care in the United States. 41% said they missed work in the past year to take care of their children or know someone who did. And as JUST’s Alison Omens and Kavya Vaghul wrote this week, regardless of what policies do or don’t come out of Congress, it will be companies that play a pivotal role in allowing working mothers – and women in general – to thrive.

According to the annual “Women in the Workplace” report from McKinsey and LeanIn, released this week, burnout is prevalent among women, especially among mothers of young children, and is worse for those mothers when they are “the only woman in the room” among their teams. The researchers, who surveyed 65,000 employees across 423 American organizations, also found that senior-level women are twice as likely as senior-level men to be spending time on diversity, equity, and inclusion work, without it being recognized in performance reviews or compensation.

Individual stories of women rising to the top of organizations (GM CEO Mary Barra was just named the next chair of the Business Roundtable) can mask not only the lack of representation on a larger scale, but the significant gap in internal development across corporate America. The report’s authors pointed to “the “broken rung” in promotions at the first step up to manager, which leaves women “dramatically underrepresented in mid-level management,” with “sharp drops in representation of women of color at every level of advancement.” Even companies prioritizing diversity of recruitment are falling short when it comes to mentorship and sponsorship, they found.

This report was focused on white-collar workers, but as former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi (her book “My Life in Full” now out) told Yahoo Finance, “We have to address this on an urgent, urgent basis,” for all. Many women are staying home not because they can’t work, she said, but “because they don’t have an alternative.”

Be well,
Martin Whittaker

This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism

Discovery, Microsoft, and Truist have invested around $120 million into a fund designed to allocate capital to banks providing services to low-income, rural, and minority borrowers.

Ford is teaming up with SK Innovation to invest over $11 billion into new factories that will create nearly 11,000 jobs to produce electric vehicles and their batteries.

Sempra Energy will pay $1.8 billion to residents of a Los Angeles community after the largest natural gas leak in the nation took nearly four months to clean up.

What’s Happening at JUST

As part of our mission to build a more just and equitable economy, we were proud to work closely with five influential asset managers – Goldman Sachs Asset Management, BlackRock, Lord Abbett, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and Vanguard – to foster discussion around racial and economic disparities, leading to the development of a new Municipal Issuer Racial Equity & Inclusion Engagement Framework. As described in Bloomberg, the group is working with two minority-owned underwriters, Loop Capital Markets and Siebert Williams Shank & Co. to “develop and distribute a questionnaire that governments will be asked to fill out before new bond deals are arranged. It will ask about policing policies, efforts to combat race-based inequality, social services and the demographic breakdown of the government’s workforce, among other things.” You can also read more about the work in Bond Buyer.

Martin describes how business can turn idealism into purposeful reality in this feature interview in PR Week where he discusses corporate accountability and our annual Rankings of America’s largest companies based on how they treat their employees, communities, customers, shareholders, and the environment.

To follow up on our August survey analysis on how Americans think companies are living up to the Business Roundtable’s redefined purpose of a corporation, we released a more in-depth exploration of key findings into the public’s attitude toward capitalism, and the impacts of large corporations on their stakeholders. We hope you’ll dig into the details.

Board director Peter Georgescu wrote a powerful essay for Stanford’s Graduate School of Business on his life, and how, 60 years after his arrival in America, he is determined to strengthen the foundations of capitalism by getting companies to move from shareholder primacy to stakeholder capitalism.

The Forum

(Eric Rojas/The B Team)

“Leaders of today should accelerate innovation while reducing risk. They follow science. They see diversity in leadership for the competitive advantage it is and the bottom-line benefit it brings. They understand that the clock is ticking, future generations are counting on us and, in the words of poet Amanda Gorman, ‘History has its eyes on us.’”

  • Jesper Brodin, CEO of IKEA and new chair of The B Team and Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of The B Team, speaking in Fortune about The New Leadership Playbook, a collection of stories, insights and resources on 21st century business leadership.

“We need business to step up. But traditionally, businesses have been reticent and instead hide behind a convenient excuse that they exist to do nothing more than maximize shareholder wealth. One of the silver linings of the last four years with the prior administration is that you saw a lot of CEOs of publicly traded companies take positions on topics they hadn’t spoken on before. It’s progress, but change is going to take a lot more than opinions.”

“Mary has a long track record of success and is a business leader who recognizes the strength of the multi-stakeholder approach to creating value, and I am thrilled to pass the baton to her. Her understanding of America’s workforce and vision for the future is the exact perspective the Roundtable needs as we continue to work with Congress and the Administration on public policies for tomorrow.”

Must-Reads of the Week

Several studies seek to help companies understand what’s driving the Great Resignation. McKinsey’s report found that the top reasons for employee departures include: “they didn’t feel valued by their organizations (54%) or their managers (52%) or because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51%).” Limeade’s report cited the top drivers as “Burnout: 40%; Company going through organizational changes: 34%; Lack of flexibility: 20%; Instances of discrimination: 20%,;Contributions and ideas not being valued: 20%.” EY reveals that over half of global employees would quit their jobs if not offered a similar level of flexibility post-pandemic.

Axios reports a surge of job listings stating that an employee must be vaccinated to apply and work at the company, and an increase in job searches for companies without vaccine mandates.

Bloomberg reports that nearly two-thirds of the world’s heaviest corporate emitters have net-zero targets. While a good step, our recent climate week panel showed why setting interim goals is critically important on the road to net-zero. The Hill reports that Boston University is divesting its endowment from fossil fuels, following in the wake of Harvard’s announcement to do the same two weeks ago.

Chart of the Week

This chart comes from our recent polling on caregiving, and shows that a majority of Americans support a federal policy offering 12 weeks of paid leave for caregiving. Learn more about how they think companies can help here.

Have questions about our research and rankings?  We want to hear from you!