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More than 60% of Americans believe racial inequality at work needs to be addressed, CNBC poll shows

Demonstrators march by the Washington Monument as protests triggered by the death of George Floyd while in police custody, continue on June 23, 2020, in Washington, DC.

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When it comes to creating racial equality in the workplace, the CNBC All-America Economic Survey finds the nation divided by race and by party,

First, there’s the division, largely along party lines, among those who believe it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. There’s a second division along racial lines of how best to address it.

The survey of 800 Americans nationwide found that 24% of Americans believe there is already racial equality in the workplace and that steps do not need to be taken to address it. That figure includes 41% of voters who support President Donald Trump, compared with 11% of voters backing former Vice President Joe Biden.

By party, 38% of Republicans do not see an issue along with 28% of independents and 12% of Democrats. Voters in the South are less concerned about the issue than those in the Northeast. White men see less of a problem than white women by a 9-point margin.

Overall, 61% of Americans believe it’s an issue that needs to be addressed, including 73% of Democrats, 60% of independents and 43% of Republicans. Fifteen percent of the public report they are unsure.

Among those who agree that racial equality in the workplace needs to be addressed, the leading solution among all respondents is to recruit, hire, and train more black employees, followed by company polices to address the specific needs and problem of black employees.

But African Americans see the solutions somewhat differently. Their top two choices: promoting more blacks into senior leadership and having more black members of boards of directors. In other words, African Americans are more likely to favor a top-down solution.

A 2019 report “Being Black in Corporate America” suggests a reason for this: while 44% of whites say they have access to senior leadership at work, just 31% of blacks say they do. Study after study, meanwhile, has shown blacks underrepresented both on corporate boards and in senior leadership positions.

Reversing the trend can create a positive feedback loop: hiring more blacks into senior leadership qualifies more for top corporate spots and director posts. “After you serve on a board, more companies learn about you and demonstrate an interest in talking to you about available opportunities that you may not have the capacity to consider, which creates an opportunity to recommend other equally qualified candidates,”  Peggy Alford, a senior executive at PayPal Holdings Inc. told Black Enterprise magazine in 2019.

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