Will Tesla disclose how diverse its workforce and leadership are after shareholder resolution passes?
Tesla may have to release detailed data about the demographics of its workforce after a shareholder resolution won the support of a majority of investors at the electric car manufacturer’s annual meeting last week.
The resolution from Calvert Research & Management came up for a vote days after a court ruled that Tesla must pay $137 million in damages in a racial harassment lawsuit brought by a Black former elevator operator at the company’s factory in Fremont, California.
The measure passed with 57% of votes cast, Tesla said Wednesday. The company which opposed the measure did not respond to requests for comment. Tesla CEO Elon Musk owns 23% of Tesla's shares, according to the company's proxy statement.
Although the resolution was supported by the majority of shareholders, it is up to Tesla whether or not to adopt it, said Kimberly Stokes, corporate engagement strategist with Calvert Research & Management.
"This is not just about Tesla releasing their EEO-1 data, and from the investor prospective this issue is not going away," she said. "Investors, employees and stakeholders want to see how companies are harnessing talent to best achieve their strategic goals."
Increasingly investors who view the diversity of workforces as a key contributor to long-term success are pressuring major corporations to be more transparent.
John Wilson, director of corporate engagement with Calvert Research & Management, told USA TODAY that the groundswell of support from Tesla investors shows the pressure campaigns are working.
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His firm made a deeper commitment to racial diversity last year following the nation's unrest over the killing of George Floyd.
"This is no longer a fringe issue. It’s mainstream," Wilson said. "We believe, and many others believe, that this kind of information helps us identify companies that will perform well in the market over the long term. It’s not just about social justice or something like that. It’s really about making the right investment decision.”
Tesla opposed the shareholder resolution, saying the company already produces a diversity report that outlines its programs and goals.
"Tesla and the board are proud of the strides made so far," the company told shareholders.
Tesla previously disclosed that its U.S. workforce is diverse but 83% of those in company leadership roles are men and 59% are white. Tesla also said that 79% of the workforce, 75% of new hires and 77% of promotions in 2020 were men.
Black and African American employees comprised 10% of the workforce but 4% of leadership, 12% of new hires and 10% of promotions in 2020. Hispanic and Latino employees were 22% of the workforce, 4% of leadership, 27% of new hires and 24% of promotions.
If the shareholder resolution wins the backing of investors, Tesla will have to produce its EEO-1 report, which breaks down the race and gender of a company’s workforce by job categories and is filed annually with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The report is private unless a company discloses it.
"The issue is that institutional investors who are committed to this company want this information," Wilson said. "I am pretty confident what we have shown here is that there is a real groundswell of support among the shareholder base and people who are investors in the company. That’s the real message for me.”
A USA TODAY investigation that used Census Bureau data to analyze the EEO-1 reports of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 100 found that, despite corporate pledges to change after George Floyd’s murder, deep racial inequalities persist at every level of the nation’s largest and most powerful companies, creating sharply disparate outcomes for people of color, especially women of color.
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Black and Hispanic workers are underrepresented in the highest-paying and most influential positions as well as in the ranks of professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, according to the investigation. At the lower levels of organizations, they are concentrated – and often overrepresented – in roles including administrative assistants, technicians and laborers.
USA TODAY asked every company in the S&P 100 to disclose its EEO-1 forms. The majority complied, many of them disclosing the data for the first time.
Tesla is latest company pressed for diversity data
Tesla did not respond to USA TODAY’s requests to release its EEO-1.
In recent weeks, even more companies have voluntarily released that data to USA TODAY including Comcast, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Walmart, AIG and FedEx.
But some of the nation’s top companies are still refusing USA TODAY’s requests including Exxon Mobil and T-Mobile.
“ExxonMobil is committed to building and sustaining a diverse workforce that is broadly representative of the global population where we do business,” company spokesman Todd Spitler said in a statement. “The EEO-1 report is specific to the U.S. and represents a subset of our global population and efforts. Therefore we do not publicly disclose the report.”
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T-Mobile told USA TODAY it does not make its EEO-1 reports publicly available. The company includes detailed workforce data in its proxy statement and elsewhere, spokeswoman Lisa Belot said.
Corporations are often reluctant to disclose EEO-1 data for fear of being cast in a negative light or putting themselves at risk for litigation. They also contend that the data they publish in annual diversity reports better reflects their workforce than the data collected by the federal government.
Tesla told shareholders that the resolution did not indicate how disclosing its EEO-1 data "would promote a more diverse workforce or provide investors with a better understanding of Tesla’s DEI policies and practices."
Pressure on corporate America to make these private documents public is gaining momentum. Investors have pressed diversity resolutions at a growing number of companies including IBM and DuPont de Nemours.
IBM told USA TODAY it would release its EEO-1 report in 2022. DuPont said it would publish its EEO-1 report later this month.
“These documents provide investors with a way to have comparable, reliable data with which we can compare other companies, other peers on an apples-to-apples basis," Stokes said. "As investors we need to have information that is reliable and repeatable over years to be able to adequately assess companies."
Read USA TODAY's series on corporate diversity here.