Whether you buy bananas in bulk, pick up an espresso or get a soft drink, you likely spend a lot of money at some of the nation's largest restaurant and grocery chains.
While the staff ringing up your order largely mirrors America, the people earning the big salaries and making the big decisions at those companies do not.
A USA TODAY examination of company employment records shows plenty of opportunities for Black and Hispanic job candidates to work at entry-level or nonmanagement positions at those corporations.
But then roadblocks appear to emerge.
Across the United States, the largest demographic groups in the workforce are 63.6% white, 16.8% Hispanic of any race, and 11.2% Black, according to U.S. Census data compiled to match EEO definitions of industries and jobs.
However, white people fill the overwhelming majority of executive jobs at Costco (87%), Starbucks (81%), Target (79%), Pepsi (77%), Mondelez International (76%), and Coca-Cola (74%), records obtained by USA TODAY show. McDonald's most closely reflects the nation's demographics among food and retail businesses, with white workers holding 66% of executive jobs while Hispanic workers hold 15% and Black workers 10%.
Walmart and The Kraft Heinz Company declined repeated requests to disclose the demographic composition of their workforces.
Those companies are part of the Standard & Poor's 100, a group of the most highly valued companies in the stock market.
Each year, companies with 100 or more employees must provide to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission an EEO-1 report, which breaks down the gender and racial demographics of their workers across 10 job categories.
Federal officials will not release those records to the public without companies’ permission, citing privacy protections in the Civil Rights Act. A civil suit filed by Reveal, a nonprofit investigative journalism outlet, challenges the legality of hiding these records from the public.
Just over half of the companies in the S&P 100 voluntarily provided recent EEO-1 reports to USA TODAY, the largest public release of the information to date.
The companies that handed over their data had more diversity among all their workers than the overall U.S. labor force. Even so, white people were 4.5 times more likely than Black or Hispanic people to hold executive jobs, and twice as likely to be managers or professionals. On average, retail and food companies came closer to achieving parity in leadership and professional roles than other giant corporations reviewed by USA TODAY. But disparities remain.
The records show white people hold around 67% of all management positions at the seven food and retail companies reviewed. That's slightly less than the average at other large corporations analyzed and in line with the nation's overall workforce. McDonald's (53%) had the lowest rate of white managers, and Pepsi (71%) had the highest.
Women held a slightly larger share of executive jobs and a significantly larger share of management jobs in those retail and food companies compared with other S&P businesses reviewed. Still, men were more likely to advance into leadership roles than women of the same race and ethnicity, especially executive jobs.
Researchers and business leaders say one challenge to diversity in leadership roles is the lack of Black and Hispanic people in professional jobs, which often are springboards to higher positions. Professional careers to pay better and offer more robust benefits than laborers, technicians and service workers.
Of the seven food and retail businesses, only McDonald's had an equitable share of Hispanic professionals. Only McDonald's and Coca-Cola had enough Black professionals to be on par with the U.S. workforce. Target had the lowest Hispanic representation (5.5%) while Costco had the smallest share of Black professionals (4.2%).
It was a different story for nonmanagement and nonprofessional positions.
The demographics at the bottom of these companies are the opposite of those at the top, with greater diversity in low-paying roles than high-paying decision-making jobs. Experts say the trend has resulted from workplace discrimination and disenfranchisement that has roots in slavery, Jim Crow laws, educational segregation and other systems of economic exclusion.
Black and Hispanic people account for 28% of the nation's workers. But at McDonald's, 34% of these nonmanagement, nonprofessional jobs were held by Hispanic people and another 23% were Black – rates about double their share of the national workforce.
The same pattern repeats at the other six food and retail companies. Women, generally, and Black and Hispanic workers are overrepresented among low-paying, low-ranking jobs. And at most of those businesses, white men, in particular, are underrepresented in those roles.
USA TODAY'S findings come nearly a year after the murder of George Floyd resulted in racial unrest across the nation with massive protests and promises of change in corporate America. Many U.S. companies vowed to invest tens of millions of dollars in disadvantaged communities and to make their workforces more diverse.
Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, announced after Floyd's death it would "develop strategies and invest resources to increase fairness, equity and justice."
By far the country's largest food retailer, it pledged to donate $100 million over five years to fight systemic racism.
Bloomberg News recently reported that some Black senior managers would not recommend working at Walmart because of the lack of diversity in leadership, the company's tendency to hire externally rather than nurturing its own talent and unequal access to career advancement opportunities, among other things.
Walmart said in a statement to USA TODAY that the internal survey commissioned by one of its employee groups involved 66 volunteers, 56 of whom are Black and African American.
“Hiring, developing, and retaining diverse talent is a top priority for Walmart,” the company said. “While we are proud of the progress we have made, we are always looking at our own systems and processes with a critical eye for ways we can do even more.”
Walmart told USA TODAY it would release its EEO-1 report later this year.
Some of the promises from other companies since Floyd's death:
Seattle-based Starbucks said 30% of all corporate positions and at least 40% of all retail and manufacturing roles would be filled by Blacks, Indigenous people and other people of color by 2025. People of color account for 45% of all Starbucks workers, 19% of executives and 31% of managers, according to the company's 2018 EEO-1 report, which uses different definitions of roles than the business uses internally.
Coca-Cola of Atlanta, a majority-Black city, stated that, after reflection, "it became clear that we need to do more to improve our diversity representation, particularly representation in leadership roles." It promised that by 2030, the racial and ethnic composition of all its job classifications would align with U.S. population counts. Coca-Cola's commitment comes more than two decades after it paid $192.5 million to settle allegations it routinely discriminated against Black employees in pay and promotions. Black people account for 20% of all Coca-Cola workers, 8% of executives and 33% of managers, according to the company's 2018 EEO-1 report.
Pepsi, of Purchase, New York, said it was committed to adding 28 Black associates to its executive ranks and that it was spending $400 million over five years to "help create equal opportunities for Black Americans." Pepsi also said it would increase Black and Hispanic managerial representation to at least 10%, to mirror the workforce "of the communities where we work." Black and Hispanic people account for 36% of all Pepsi workers, according to the company's 2019 EEO-1 report.
"We have to hold ourselves accountable, and that is why we are being transparent in the progress we are making," Jon Banner, an executive vice president for Pepsi, told USA TODAY in June. "We have made ambitious goals, and the only way you get there is by taking a measure of your progress."
Coca-Cola and Starbucks declined numerous interview requests to explain their hiring and promotion practices or how they would fulfill their hiring goals over the next several years. Instead, each sent statements by email or referred USA TODAY to their websites on diversity and inclusion. Pepsi promised to update its workforce demographics report every six months to hold itself accountable to its promises.
McDonald's did not respond to phone calls or email questions sent from USA TODAY.
Darren Walker, president of the $14 billion Ford Foundation, an international social justice philanthropy, said it was "deeply regrettable" that some companies didn't want to talk about their EEO-1 reports.
"It's crucial to their public image, and it's crucial to their success in the marketplace. That is a real shame," he said.
‘We always can do better’
Costco's chief financial officer, Richard Galanti, said in an interview that his company does a very good job of having a diverse workforce at its 559 U.S. warehouses, where members purchase bulk products at a discount.
Galanti said that's because Costco primarily hires employees from those communities.
"We are geographically dispersed at 500 locations in 45 states and we hire from where we are located. It has worked well for us," Galanti said. "We try to promote from within, but we always can do better and find room to improve."
Galanti said if Costco starts with a diverse pool of nonmanagement employees, the company should continue to promote people of color. He said more than 75% of its managers started in entry-level jobs of stocking shelves, pushing carts or being a cashier.
Within eight years of employment, those entry-level workers can earn $61,000 annually, close to a typical income of a U.S. household. A warehouse manager can earn up to $400,000 annually with salary, bonus and equity compensation, Galanti said.
Galanti said Costco has resisted pressure from Wall Street to lower wages in order to increase profits and the share price for investors.
"By treating employees well and gaining their mutual admiration, for the long term, it's good for business," he said. "We have a model that allows it."
However, Galanti acknowledges that Issaquah, Washington-based Costco has room to boost diversity in its upper ranks.
The company's 2019 report to federal officials shows that Hispanic people hold about 30% of middle management roles and lower-level positions, double their proportion of the U.S. workforce. Yet, they only make up about 7% of professionals and 10% of executives. Black people are underrepresented throughout the company. None hold executive jobs, and they account for 8% of managers, 4% of professionals and 10% of all other workers.
Women hold just two of the company's 38 executive jobs, and both are white. Men outnumbered women in management jobs more than 2 to 1, which was a wider gap than found in nonmanagement roles.
"We will never be perfect, but we are improving," Galanti said, noting the company has increased the number of minorities in supervisory and management roles the past few years.
Build a pipeline at historically Black schools
Howard University School of Business Dean Anthony Wilbon said corporations that want to tap into a pipeline of talented, educated African Americans should cultivate strong relationships with historically Black colleges and universities like Howard in Washington, D.C.
Wilbon said it's not enough for companies to say they want to recruit students from the 107 HBCUs.
"You have to build a strategy," Wilbon said. "If you just want to come in and go to a career fair and drop off some brochures, you will not be successful."
He said major U.S. companies, including food retailers, need to begin recruiting students during their freshman and sophomore years by offering mentorship, internship and job shadowing programs. That way, Wilbon said, students feel connected to potential future employers.
"Hiring 10 African American students is not enough. When they get there, do they have mentors?" Wilbon said. "Companies can hire these students, but there can be a great deal of anxiety if one of these hires is sitting in a conference room and may be the youngest, or the only Asian or African American or disabled person in the room."
Wilbon said he applauds companies that are making promises to hire more people of color, but he said there needs to be a plan to promote them to the executive level.
"Ultimately, the goal is to get the management team to be a representation of the broader society," Wilbon said. "I'm optimistic that things are changing."
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More in this series
‘We are fundamentally a racist and sexist society’: How top companies in US are struggling to diversify leadership
‘The new plantation’: How (and why) tech’s corporate giants haven’t successfully diversified their workforces
How we did it
Every year, companies send the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a one-page form called an EEO-1, counting workers by race, ethnicity and gender in 10 occupation categories. The U.S. Census Bureau also produces a summary of the American workforce that uses the same industry, occupation, race and ethnicity definitions as the EEO-1. USA TODAY compared how well represented Black and Hispanic people were at these companies versus the overall labor force. For some stories, we zoomed in on Census statistics for an industry associated with companies for which we had data: five companies in tech, six banks and seven food or retail corporations. We also reviewed corporation websites for racial and gender identities of board members, confirming with company officials as needed. Explore our database of EEO-1 employment records.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Top executive jobs at America's biggest retailers nearly all white