economic divide
(Prazis Images/Shutterstock)

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

 

70 

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.

 

Latest News

woke politics

Republicans Launch a War on ‘Woke’ Politics in Hopes of Big Legislative Wins in 2022

In 2020, former President Barack Obama warned that the phrase “Defund the Police” could become a dangerous rallying cry for the conservative right. But now, Republicans have apparently taken that warning one step further, declaring war on all things “woke.” Allan Smith and Sahil Kapur of NBC News wrote that…

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…