In this Research Insights Paper, we analyze corporate statements made in response to the collective citizen witnessing of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Based on our data of 228 statements, our results provide three key insights:

  • Three themes emerged to make sense of systemic oppression. These are: Oppression is everywhere, all the time; Leaders are invitational; Messages and metrics should match.
  • Three motives for doing EDI work range from surface level compliance to in-depth change. These are EDI as a cosmetic tool, conversation starter, and commitment driver.
  • Cosmetic motives are overrepresented, as 95.98% of statement content lacks key details accounting for long-term culture change.

While corporate statements were spurred by a here-and-now situation, the issue of systemic oppression is ongoing. Therefore, these insights suggest the need for continued evaluation of statements in the context of quantitative and qualitative indicators, paying particular attention to employee reviews, diversity metrics, and social responsibility. The current paper provides an overview of statement content as it relates to equity, diversity, and inclusion and includes advice on what leaders can do as they deal with risks of moving from cosmetic diversity to inclusive conversation and committed equitable action.

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