Nearly 60 Washington state employers have joined together to make a commitment to racial equity in conjunction with a new report outlining disparities faced by Black Washingtonians. The report—The Commitment to Progress: An Equitable Future for Washington—examines the experience of Black and white residents in five areas: education, healthcare, criminal justice, personal finance, and the corporate workplace. Across the board, Black Washingtonians experience inequities that compound over time and cross generations. Action is needed to ensure equity and opportunity for all Washington residents.
The disadvantages start at birth, with higher rates of infant mortality and less access to prenatal care for Black mothers. In school, Black students are taught by less experienced teachers, are suspended twice as often as white peers, and are less frequently recommended for advanced coursework despite having identical transcripts.
Disparities continue into adulthood and are not explained away by differences in socio-economic status or education. Black households earn $0.74 to every dollar earned by white households and the income gap between Black and white workers holding bachelor’s degree is larger than it is for those with a high school diploma. Further, Black households without a bachelor’s or advanced degree are less likely to own their home than white households without a high school diploma.
The report is the result of six months of research, data analysis, and interviews with over 70 community and business leaders, diversity, equity and inclusion specialists, and those with lived experience.
“The data and research are clear – Black Washingtonians have not received fair and equitable opportunities for generations,” said Chris Gregoire, CEO of Challenge Seattle and former governor of Washington state. “We have much work to do to support lasting change in both hearts and minds and across systems, structures, and policies.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is only magnifying these inequities,” said Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable. “It will take a concerted effort from all of us to actively drive change and build an equitable future for Washington.”
Washington’s CEOs and corporate leaders have stepped forward to create a new coalition committed to action, Washington Employers for Racial Equity. The coalition’s goal is equity and opportunity for all. To begin, it will focus on advancing equity for Black Washingtonians in recognition of the long history of injustice and inequity experienced by this community.
To date, nearly 60 employers – including companies large and small, local and global – have signed the coalition’s Commitment to Progress, which sets specific goals for 2030. Goals include fostering an inclusive workplace; achieving equity in hiring, pay, and promotion; increasing internship and learning opportunities for Black students; increasing diversity and racial equity among contractors, vendors, and supplier networks; and increasing support for Black-owned businesses.
Coalition members have set a goal to invest a combined $2 billion over five years to support racial equity through their companies’ internal and external corporate investments, and community and philanthropic efforts. The coalition is will publicly report on its collective progress.
“I am proud to be part of a coalition of employers joining forces to advance racial equity through clear action that will support change,” said Craig Dawson, president and CEO of Retail Lockbox, Inc. “Washington state leaders across industries – including financial services, healthcare, retail, construction, technology, and more – will work toward shared goals for a better, more equitable future.”
“This work cannot wait. We must strengthen our current efforts by listening, learning, and taking action to eliminate injustice and support racial equity,” said Susan Mullaney, president of Kaiser Permanente Health Plan of Washington.
The coalition was founded by Challenge Seattle and Washington Roundtable – two business associations whose members companies represent 300,000+ employees in Washington state. Additional sponsors include Bellevue Chamber, Economic Alliance Snohomish County, Greater Seattle Partners, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, and Washington Hospitality Association.
Washington Employers for Racial Equity. Learn more at employers4equity.org.