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Companies start responding to pressure to bolster minority representation

Companies are starting to respond to pressure to foster diversity and inclusion after this summer’s nationwide protests over racial injustice.

Major business groups, as well as household company names like Starbucks, recently announced plans to beef up their efforts in the coming years.

Starbucks, one of the largest private employers in the U.S., said last week that by 2025 it hopes to have 30 percent minority representation at all corporate levels.

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The top employer in the U.S., Walmart, is taking similar steps, along with other industry leaders.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillion, who is also chairman of the Business Roundtable trade group, announced new corporate initiatives and public policy recommendations last week to advance equity.

“It is our employees, customers and communities who are calling for change, and we are listening – and most importantly – we are taking action,” he said in a statement.

The plan from the group and its more than 200 CEOs, including JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Marriott’s Arne Sorenson, also calls for expanding collaborations with historically Black colleges and universities and supporting businesses owned by Black entrepreneurs.

Companies that have already taken action include Sony Music Group, which recently named a new chief diversity and inclusion officer. Nike named a new diversity chief, while Intel said it would double the number of women and underrepresented minorities in senior leadership roles by 2030.

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The actions of corporate America are under scrutiny, not just by activists but by Congress as well.

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed Maxine Waters says Biden win is 'dawn of a new progressive America' MORE (D-Calif.) has called Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf’s remarks on recruiting Black executives “highly inaccurate” after he said in September that there is a limited pool of Black talent to recruit from, a statement he has since apologized for.

But Waters has also handed out praise, commending Citigroup for naming Jane Fraser its next CEO. She will be the first female CEO of a major Wall Street bank.

“As the first woman and the first African American to chair the Financial Services Committee, I know all too well that there are many women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups qualified to fill roles at every level in the financial services industry whom are often overlooked and disregarded,” Waters said in a statement.

When Waters took over the committee, she established the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee, which is led by Rep. Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyTrump's controversial diversity order expected to see swift reversal under Biden Companies start responding to pressure to bolster minority representation Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry MORE (D-Ohio).

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“It is indisputable that diversity and inclusion are critical drivers of productivity and innovation for companies and our economy. So, the work of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion is a critical bridge to the workforce and economy of tomorrow,” Beatty said in a statement.

Beatty said her work includes pushing financial institutions toward hiring diversity officers, developing business diversity plans, seeking minority and women asset managers and providing greater transparency and accountability.

While the business community is traditionally seen as aligned with Republicans, that relationship suffered a rift recently after President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE’s executive order last month that extended his administration's ban on race- and sex-based discrimination training to include federal contractors.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, joined by more than 150 state and local chambers, trade associations and nonprofits, wrote a letter to Trump on Thursday urging him to withdraw the order. The American Hospital Association also wrote to Trump, calling for him to rescind the order, saying it “would effectively reverse decades of progress in combating racial inequality.”

The order outlaws the teaching of “divisive concepts,” including the idea that one race or sex is superior, that the U.S. is fundamentally racist or sexist, that any individual should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish” or physiological distress because of their race or sex or that an individual bears responsibility for past actions by others of the same race or sex.

Beatty said it is “unconscionable” to not respond to Trump’s order.

“Thus, we have put the administration on notice that diversity and inclusion training is an integral tool to build mutual respect and understanding. They are fully aware that I oppose this order, and I call on all stakeholders to reject this effort,” she said.

The corporate world is also scrutinizing its own about efforts to cultivate diversity and inclusion.

Glassdoor, a website where current and former employees can anonymously review companies, recently launched a “Diversity & Inclusion Rating.” Technology company Salesforce had the highest diversity and inclusion score of 4.6 out of the 12 companies with an initial rating, while Walmart had the lowest rating, at 3.7.