BofA makes progress on diversity, says there's more work to do

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Bank of America inched closer to its diversity goals last year, and said it recognizes more needs to be done.

Racial and gender representation increased in most areas of the company, including among senior management, according to data the bank released Friday. Still, the percentage of women in the top three tiers of the firm remained unchanged from a year earlier at 41%.

"Our diversity goals are very simple: Over time, we want to reflect the clients and communities in which we operate," Sheri Bronstein, the bank's chief human resources officer, said in an interview. "Diverse teams create better results. We want people to see the progress we've made and recognize that we have more work to do."

The killing of George Floyd in May sparked a global outcry, and Bank of America in June announced a $1 billion pledge over four years to combat racial and economic inequality. Citigroup has said it will spend the same amount over the next three years on efforts to close the racial wealth gap, and other banks have announced similar philanthropic initiatives. Still, critics say Wall Street has contributed to racial income disparities and been too slow to diversify its ranks.

At Bank of America, people of color accounted for 19% of executive or senior-level managers last year, up from 15% in 2015. And they represented 37% of midlevel managers versus 33% in 2015. The figures exceed financial services benchmarks from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the bank said.

Latino staff made up 17.9% of the overall workforce last year, and Black employees accounted for 13.1%. Latinos comprise 18.5% of the U.S. population, while African Americans make up 13.4%, according to census data.

Diversity is a performance metric for managers at the Charlotte, N.C.-based lender, alongside goals such as revenue and risk management, Bronstein said.

Companies are under pressure from investors and advocates to release the gender and race data they share privately with the federal government each year. In a recent survey, 25 of the biggest companies in the U.S. were willing to make public a copy of the form as it's presented to the EEOC.

Bank of America released an abbreviated version of the full form in its report Friday, and has been publishing the statistics since 2013. PepsiCo and Starbucks are among companies that recently shared the full form.

Pandemic aid

Bank of America on Friday also outlined expanded benefits rolled out during the pandemic, such as providing free coronavirus testing, 1.7 million days of backup care and reimbursements for more than $200 million in child and adult care.

"We have taken extensive steps to care for the health and safety of our teammates during the unprecedented health crisis," Chief Executive Brian Moynihan said in a statement.

Employees will be given 30 days' notice before being invited back to offices in the U.S., and they will have the choice to return when asked or wait for a later phase, Bronstein said.

"At the core of our return plans are safety and security," she said. "We have some people who can't wait to get back and get out of their apartments, and others are less comfortable."

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