economic divide
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America’s Biggest Companies Profit Despite Massive Layoffs; MacKenzie Scott Donates $4.1 Billion to Charity; and More

America’s biggest companies have profited greatly from the coronavirus, even as they drastically cut their workforce.

In the ultimate example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, a new Washington Post survey has revealed that between April and September, 45 of the 50 most valuable publicly traded companies in the country turned significant profits. At the same time, 27 of these 50 companies also made major cuts in their workforces, laying off employees in record numbers and collectively cutting more than 100,000 jobs.

“The data reveals a split-screen inside many big companies this year,” The Post reported. “On one side, corporate leaders are touting their success and casting themselves as leaders on the road to economic recovery. On the other, many of their firms have put Americans out of work and used their profits to increase the wealth of their shareholders.”

Among the examples cited by the paper:

  • Berkshire Hathaway brought in profits totaling more than $56 billion during the first six months of 2020 yet still laid off more than 13,000 workers 
  • Salesforce, Cisco Systems and PayPal all cut staff even after their CEOs vowed not to do so. 
  • Walmart distributed more than $10 billion to investors while laying off 1,200 corporate employees

According to The Post, the paper contacted all 27 large firms that held layoffs this year. “Many said the cuts were not related to the pandemic, but rather, a necessary part of broader ‘restructuring’ plans, where companies shift spending from declining lines of business to growing ones,” the paper wrote. “In some cases, these plans were decided before the pandemic.” Still, many critics doubt the authenticity of those claims — especially in light of the COVID-19 crisis and the impact it has had on American jobs and livelihoods.

“There is an obligation on the part of the largest and most successful businesses to help buffer the human impact of the crisis,” author Kirk Hanson, professor of business ethics and a senior fellow at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, told The Post. Instead, Hanson said large corporations focusing solely on investor profits and not the welfare of their workforce are only adding to the country’s growing economic divide.


MacKenzie Scott has donated $4.1 billion to charity in the last four months.

Philanthropist, author and ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Scott is on a pandemic spending spree. In a Medium post published on Tuesday, Dec. 16, Scott announced that she had given away more than $1 billion a month over the past four months, committing to helping 384 different nonprofit groups.

Scott didn’t divulge the amounts she gave to each nonprofit, but the list of groups she donated to includes historically Black colleges and universities, food banks around the country and various YMCA centers. For some of the organizations, the donations were as high as $50 million.

“Not only are nonprofits chronically underfunded, they are also chronically diverted from their work by fundraising, and by burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place on them,” Scott wrote. Instead of telling the nonprofits she chose to support how she’d like to see the money spent, she said she simply wrote the check and got out of the way, saying “the entire commitment would be paid upfront and left unrestricted in order to provide them with maximum flexibility.”

Unlike many wealthy donors, Scott was also very clear to point out the discrepancies that exist between her and the majority of Americans, especially in 2020. 

“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” she wrote. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

While Scott played a pivotal role in the early years of Amazon, she has kept a low profile publicly until her divorce from Bezos in 2019. According to NBC News, Scott was awarded $38 billion in that split — an amount that has grown to over $60 billion as Amazon stock has since skyrocketed in value.


TIAA donates 5,000 books with inclusive storylines to children in need. 

Financial services giant TIAA, one of the leading providers of financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and governmental fields (and No. 9 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020), has teamed with publisher Simon & Schuster, New York Times bestselling author Denene Millner and the nonprofit Pajama Program to donate 5,000 books featuring characters of color and diverse storylines to underserved children across the country.

The book donations are an extension of TIAA’s “Roger Reads” program (led by CEO Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.) that brings TIAA employees together to read a book on the perspectives of inclusion, race and allyship. It’s also part of TIAA’s “Be the Change” initiative, which promotes the company’s commitment to justice, equity and combating racism. The donated books, along with cozy pajamas, will be distributed over the coming months.

“Not only will this [donation] help us impact the lives of thousands of children, but the thoughtfully curated collection of books also will enable us to engage in critical conversations on equity and representation in children’s literature and in our communities,” said Jamie Dyce, executive director of the Pajama Program. 


D.I. Fast Facts

12 million 

Number of American renters who will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January as a result of COVID-19. The numbers of individuals behind on rent and utilities were especially high for families with children, with 21% falling behind on rent, and among families of color. About 29% of Black families and 17% of Hispanic renters were behind.
Philadelphia Inquirer



Percentage of LGBTQ individuals who think their company’s inclusion efforts have a positive or very positive impact. The finding comes from a survey of 468 legal professionals. In contrast, just 45% of non-LGBTQ individuals in the study found inclusion efforts to be positive. “This shows that the employees that the initiatives are mainly aimed at are feeling the results of the work that firms are putting in,” said Oliver Stofka, one of the researchers behind the study.
Lawyer’s Weekly


3 times 

Rate at which people with disabilities report experiencing some form of depression, compared to individuals without a disability.
Irish Times


$22.5 million 

Amount Pinterest has settled to pay in a gender discrimination lawsuit brought about by its former COO Francoise Brougher. Of the money being paid, $20 million will go to Brougher and her attorneys; $2.5 million will be awarded towards an initiative dedicated to “Advancing women and underrepresented communities” in the tech industry. Brougher’s claims of sexism within the company included being left out of important meetings, being given gendered feedback and being paid less than her male peers. Prior to her claims being announced, two other former employees (Aerica Shimizu Banks and Ifeoma Ozoma) had also accused the social media company of racial discrimination.
New York Times


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.


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