The biggest management consultancy has built a think tank focusing on Black economic mobility

McKinsey & Company is the world’s largest strategy and management consulting firm. Part of the “Big Three,” along with Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company, McKinsey has more than 27,000 employees around the world and consults with major corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and domestic and foreign governments. McKinsey is also a major source of economic, data-driven research.

Because of how far and deep its tentacles run, McKinsey has been at the center of some of the most famous corporate controversies—Enron, the 2008 financial crisis and the prescription opioid epidemic, just to name a few. The company also has ties to oppressive government leaders and policies, having contracted with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Saudi monarchy and advised U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reduce food and medical care for detained migrants.

Despite its problematic entanglements, McKinsey followed the lead of many major companies in 2020 and committed itself to fighting systemic racism. In December 2020, the firm launched the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility, a think tank that will research, convene thought leadership and develop tools to safeguard the lives of Black people around the world.

McKinsey’s clients span the entire breadth of the American and global workforce: 90% of the firm’s clients are Fortune 500 companies and major employers. If any organization is positioned to take a deep dive into employee data, it’s McKinsey.


Last month, the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility released its first major report, “Race in the workplace: The Black experience in the U.S. private sector.” The 71-page publication leaves us with five key takeaways:

Black people are overrepresented in frontline jobs and thus don’t have sufficient opportunities to advance

With one salaried frontline job for every 20 hourly positions, breaking into a managerial role is much harder for the Black employees who make up 18% of these jobs. Conversely, Black employees are underrepresented among managers.

Black employees leave entry-level jobs more often than White people

We are appropriately represented in entry-level roles, such as account associates, software engineers and paralegals. Black employees leave almost every job category quicker than White employees. 

There is a “trust deficit” between companies and their Black employees:

Black employees are 23% less likely to receive support to advance, 41% less likely to view promotions as fair and 39% less likely to believe in the effectiveness of their company’s DE&I programs than their White colleagues.

So it only follows that it is harder to get promoted if you are Black

We make up only 7% of managers and about 4% of senior leadership roles.

There is little support or sponsorship in the workplace

Only 23% of Black employees and 30% of White employees believe they get “a lot” or “quite a bit” of support to advance. More than 67% of Black employees report they do not have a sponsor, despite 87% of the report’s participating companies stating that they have sponsorship programs in place.

Throughout its 95-year history, McKinsey has shown itself to prefer one color over all: green. It will be interesting to see what the Institute for Black Economic Mobility produces in terms of research and actual impact. The think tank’s core team is comprised of high-level Black consultants, and they are guided by a diverse internal advisory team.

It will also be interesting to see whether the institute’s work will trickle down to the firm’s work with its clients. Can the think tank and, in turn, McKinsey, make a demonstrable impact on Black attrition, promotion and opportunity in corporate America?