5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: February 17

As the saying goes, the news never stops. In this weekly news roundup, we’ll cover the top news stories impacting American workplaces and communities.

1. Biden Signs Executive Order to Advance Racial Equity

Today, President Joe Biden signed an executive order called “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

According to a release from the Biden-Harris Administration, the order “emphasized the enormous human costs of systemic racism and persistent poverty, and provided a powerful and unprecedented mandate for all federal agencies to launch a whole-of-government approach to equity.”

While some progress has been made to help people of color and impoverished communities, there are still barriers in place that prevent people of color from equal opportunities. 

Read more about the executive order. 

The Biden Administration also released the federal government’s first-ever diversity and inclusion report. The 32-page report looks at “hiring and retention across agencies and gives a snapshot of the administration’s efforts to remove barriers for applicants from underrepresented communities,” according to Government Executive

2. FDA to Require Researchers to Increase Clinical Trial Diversity

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon require those who want approval for late-stage clinical trials to submit a plan outlining how they will increase diversity among those who participate in the trials. 

This plan was laid out in a bill signed by President Biden in December 2022 and has been applauded by many scientists. Clinical trials need to include more people of color to make medicine and treatment that is more effective for the population as a whole. 

To improve diversity in its oncology and Alzheimer’s studies, Eli Lilly and Co. (No. 5 on the 2022 Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 list) used a decentralized approach to trials. It also established a partnership with the Network for Excellence in Healthcare Innovation (NEHI) to form a Community Focused Research Organization (CFRO) focused solely on driving diversity in clinical trial participation, which was stood up with an initial $500,000 in seed funding. 

“Our clinical trial population must reflect the patient population the trial medicine may treat,” Kelly Copes Anderson, Global Head of DEI at Eli Lilly and Co., said. “We are constantly evolving our strategies to enhance diverse representation in our trials by establishing novel partnerships, identifying a diverse range of trial sites and investigators, expanding accessibility and convenience and raising awareness via digital outreach campaigns.”

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3. Black Leaders Making Headway at S&P 100 Companies

When it comes to the leadership of S&P 100 companies, white men continue to make up the majority of leaders.

A study mentioned by USA Today showed that of the 533 executive officers named to positions such as CEOs, Chief Financial Officers and other high-paying roles, 7-in-10 were white men. And of those S&P 100 companies, 1-in-7 had executive teams in 2022 made up of only white men. Just 90 women were appointed to these roles while only 17 women of color were. 

While white men continue to occupy the majority of these roles, some S&P 100 companies are hiring more people of color as executive officers. In 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, 14 Black men were named to executive officer positions. And in 2022, 19 Black men were appointed to these roles. 

One example is Southern Company (No. 19 on Fair360, formerly DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list). The organization announced in January that Chris Womack would succeed Thomas A. Fanning as CEO of the company on March 31, 2023. 

4. A Look at Diversity and Inclusion at Super Bowl LVII

While many people watch the Super Bowl for the game itself and the halftime show, many people also watch it for the commercials. And this year, Super Bowl LVII targeted older consumers by having a common theme of nostalgia. 

Companies often try to appeal to the younger generations and target their products toward Gen Z now, but advertisements for the 2023 Super Bowl seemed to be for Millennials, Gen X and even the Baby Boomers, and were light-hearted. 

An example of this was T Mobile’s 5G home internet ad, which featured John Travolta singing about home internet to the tune of “Summer Nights” from the movie “Grease,” which he starred in over 40 years ago. 

While the Super Bowl itself was diverse with both teams having Black quarterbacks, a performance from Rihanna and Black women serving as agents and assistant coaches, the ads themselves didn’t necessarily embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) argued that Super Bowl advertisers did not invest in including LGBTQ+ people in the commercials, citing that only four ads out of the 51 that aired featured LGBTQ+ individuals. 

5. Should Companies Make Public Statements About Social Injustices?

After the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tyre Nichols to name a few, some companies have made public statements about social injustices to show support for racial equality and a commitment to form a better workplace culture in the last few years. 

While companies might have had good intentions when making these statements, SHRM reported that these statements have a negative impact. 

Boston-based DEI psychologist Lauran Star told SHRM that “research has repeatedly demonstrated there is little to no benefit for an organization taking a political stance on social movements and social injustices. In fact, data supports the idea that doing so can hurt an organization if done with the wrong focus.”

According to a 2020 study from the Columbia Business School, there was a significant decrease in the quality of work and productivity from employees at companies that made comments about social injustices. These statements also harmed relationships between employees, leading to poor business decisions and more conflict.