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Working From Home Poses Hurdles for Employees of Color

Kimberly Bryant, the founder of the nonprofit group Black Girls Code, recalls the spontaneous encounters with other people of color around the office that gave her a sense of belonging as she forged a career as an engineer. The wave in the cafeteria, the smile in the elevator, the nod in the hallway — for Ms. Bryant, “all would lead to connections that were instrumental in terms of my success.”

Those serendipitous occasions are just a memory, a casualty of the pandemic and the shift of tens of millions of employees from office settings to working from home. It’s also one way in which the rise of the virtual office places special burdens on people of color, according to diversity and inclusion officers as well as many employees.

With fewer connections and less extensive networks than white colleagues to begin with, Black and Hispanic workers can find themselves more isolated than ever in a world of Zoom calls and virtual forums. Assignments end up flowing to people who look more like top managers — a longstanding issue — while workers of color hesitate to raise their voices during online meetings, said Sara Prince, a partner at the consulting firm McKinsey.

“It’s a critical issue, and there is a real risk facing diversity and inclusion in the current environment,” said Ms. Prince, who like Ms. Bryant is African-American. “When the leader is looking for someone to take up the mantle, most of them go to the comfort zone of people who remind them of themselves. This is exacerbated by the virtual office.”

The issues posed by working from home are worsened by the outbreak over all. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, 27 percent of companies put diversity and inclusion efforts on hold, according to a survey by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, a research group.

Without an aggressive effort to counteract the pandemic’s impact on workplace dynamics, workers of color may suffer lasting career damage. “The unmanaged outcome is more isolation, less advancement, more job losses, and a real retrenchment in the progress around diversity and inclusion,” Ms. Prince said.

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Credit…Kaiti Sullivan for The New York Times

Corporations have been a focus for civil rights organizers since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May gave rise to protests and a broader examination of racial injustice.

In part, that focus reflects corporate America’s slow racial progress. Big businesses have made prominent contributions to organizations promoting social justice causes, and ad campaigns have highlighted companies’ engagement with communities of color. But the leadership of Fortune 500 companies continues to skew heavily white and male.

Some specialists on workplace diversity worry that as work shifts to home offices, efforts to advance people of color into executive positions will be blunted. More traditional candidates will end up dominating the conversation, they say, leaving others out.

Evelyn Carter, managing director at Paradigm, a consulting firm, cited a concept called distance bias to describe the dynamic that can occur in the virtual office. “You put more emphasis on people closer to you,” she said. “You don’t have connections where you don’t have proximity, so you maintain relationships with the people you already know.”

When employees gather online, it’s easier for some to fall through the cracks.

It’s harder to tell which employees have shrunk back in their chairs or otherwise withdrawn in virtual meetings, said Ms. Carter, who is African-American, but moderators should pay attention to clues like people with their cameras off and try to draw those participants back into the discussion.

Being visible is critical for people of color in the workplace and harder to achieve in a work-from-home environment, said Joy Fitzgerald, chief diversity and inclusion officer at the drugmaker Eli Lilly.

“To succeed, 50 percent is performance, 25 percent is perception and the other 25 percent, which is a force multiplier, is visibility,” said Ms. Fitzgerald, who is African-American. “But if people don’t know you, they don’t see you. It creates a higher degree of complexity and challenge for underrepresented groups.”

With many companies not expected to ask employees to return to their pre-pandemic workplaces before 2021, the implications of the virtual office for people of color have become an increasingly urgent topic for diversity officers, human resource chiefs and leaders in the Black business community like Ms. Bryant.

“A lot of us have some concerns about the impact on Black and brown communities as companies move to remote workplaces,” Ms. Bryant said. That’s especially true in the technology industry, which has struggled to diversify its heavily white and male work force.

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Credit…Kaiti Sullivan for The New York Times

People of color “have issues with feeling included in tech spaces,” she added. “There’s an added barrier to inclusion within a virtual space.” Black Girls Code, which she runs from Oakland, Calif., promotes the advancement of young women of color in technology jobs, offering training in software programs during after-school workshops and other sessions.

For Ms. Bryant, 53, who worked at the biotechnology company Genentech and other Bay Area operations, the connections that resulted from crossing paths in the hallway, the elevator and elsewhere led to lifelong friendships. There were few Black faces in what she terms a “monochromatic environment,” but out of adversity came deep bonds.

“You could share challenges as well as successes,” she said. “A good portion of those connections are still close.”

Other Black executives recounted similar experiences.

“I know what it’s like to be the only Black person or woman with your title in the room, and you do find that the opportunity to connect in person is helpful,” said Lanaya Irvin, president of the Center for Talent Innovation, a research group that looks at diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

The unexpected encounter may have been replaced by the formal geometry of the Zoom square, but not all experts consider that a bad thing. Tina Shah Paikeday, who oversees global diversity and inclusion advisory services at Russell Reynolds, the headhunting firm, thinks there might actually be some advantages to it.

“Most minorities are left out of informal networks and might not have been invited out for drinks or lunch,” said Ms. Paikeday, who is of South Asian descent. “The Zoom meeting is intentionally planned, and managers feel very intentional about inviting everyone.”

“It’s a great equalizer, and it creates opportunities for affinity group within large organizations,” she said. “It could end up being a good thing for minorities.”

Other diversity and inclusion officers concur with Ms. Paikeday, and emphasize that with leadership from the top, the virtual office can be designed to embrace all employees.

At Lilly, Ms. Fitzgerald has organized online forums in which workers of diverse backgrounds can share concerns and have access to top executives. After the killing of Mr. Floyd on May 25, Lilly convened a companywide one.

“For many Black and brown people, May 25 was a defining event, and we had a day of solidarity,” Ms. Fitzgerald said. “We did a double click on racial justice. It was a learning opportunity, it was a connection opportunity, and it was a call to action.”

It was also a chance for employees to interact directly with the company’s chief executive, David A. Ricks, who kicked off the session. More recently, in mid-August, Lilly held its annual forum for Black and Hispanic employees, drawing 5,000 people for virtual discussions of issues like immigration, racial justice, equity and inclusion.

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Credit…Kaiti Sullivan for The New York Times

Such efforts, she said, will prevent the virtual office from becoming a barrier.

Goldman Sachs’s chief diversity officer, Erika Irish Brown, who is African-American, acknowledged that “these are very isolating times,” but said that in the virtual office “there is a leveling that occurs when everyone has the same-size box onscreen.”

To encourage a sense of connection and ensure that different voices are heard, Goldman has organized a series of meetings aimed at a wide variety of employees.

In the spring, the firm organized a large forum on anti-Asian sentiment, with senior leaders discussing their experiences. It was followed by a global session on racial equity that featured David Solomon, Goldman’s chief executive, moderating a panel discussion on race with three Black partners.

At Dell Technologies, the Black Networking Alliance organized two “moments of reflection” after Mr. Floyd’s killing. Nearly 30,000 employees, including Michael Dell, the company’s chief executive, dialed in to share their feelings and engage in a dialogue.

The Black Networking Alliance is one of 13 employee resource groups at Dell, said Brian Reaves, chief diversity and inclusion officer at the company. Others include Pride, Women in Action and Latino Connection.

“Whether it’s the elevator or the lunchroom, it’s nice to connect,” said Mr. Reaves, who is African-American, but he feels that these groups can take the place of those spots and keep workers from feeling isolated. “You can connect with anybody around the world.”

Whether or not that proves to be the case, it’s clear that the virtual office will endure even after the coronavirus has been conquered. Longstanding practices in areas like recruiting are changing, too, with candidates no longer having to start at headquarters and get to know co-workers of color through a nod or a wave.

“We’ll never go back to where we were before,” Mr. Reaves said.

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Two Black-Led Banks Merge to Form a $1 Billion Lender

A merger announced Wednesday will create the nation’s largest Black-controlled bank and the first with assets of more than $1 billion.

Broadway Federal Bank, a Los Angeles-based commercial lender founded in 1946, will combine with City First Bank in Washington, which opened in 1998.

Brian E. Argrett, chief executive of City First, will be chief executive of the combined company, which will use City First as its banking brand but keep the publicly traded Broadway Financial Corporation as its bank holding company. Wayne-Kent A. Bradshaw, Broadway’s chief executive, will be the chairman of the combined company.

The enlarged bank will specialize in three areas of financing: multifamily affordable housing, small businesses and nonprofit development, Mr. Argrett said in an interview.

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“We need to scale up our impact,” he said. “Having a larger capital base is important so we can direct more resources into underserved communities.”

Broadway and City First are Community Development Financial Institutions, which are lenders that focus on low- and moderate-income areas and typically serve minority borrowers and entrepreneurs who lack the assets to get traditional loans. The new company will preserve Broadway’s designation as a Minority Depository Institution, a federally insured institution that is mostly owned by minority shareholders or led by a minority-controlled board.

There are 143 Minority Depository Institutions in the United States, according to the government’s latest data, but just 20 are Black led. A recent study by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation found that such minority-led institutions outperformed traditional banks in originating mortgages and federally backed small-business loans to borrowers in low- and moderate-income census tracts.

The two banks’ desire to grow and create an organization with a larger capital base inspired the merger, Mr. Argrett said. The company plans to maintain headquarters in Southern California and Washington.

Broadway Financial recently fended off a hostile takeover attempt by the Capital Corps, another minority-focused lender. Had it succeeded, that deal would have ended the bank’s seven decades of Black ownership.

Community lenders have been especially prominent lately in dealing with the economic shocks of the coronavirus crisis and the protests that roiled many cities this summer. They were a vital link in getting government relief funds and other resources to businesses and entrepreneurs in areas neglected by larger banks.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, unprecedented unemployment and the very important social unrest going on in our country, C.D.F.I.s are the answer,” Mr. Argrett said. “By building a bicoastal and national platform, we have the opportunity to become a very attractive platform for impact investors looking to join this space.”

Shares of Broadway Financial were up 13.5 percent at the close of trading on Wednesday. The transaction, which is expected to close early next year, will leave Broadway stockholders with 52.5 percent ownership of the new company and City First shareholders with 47.5 percent ownership.

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In Britain, an Idea to Reduce Racial Inequality Gains Momentum

Nearly two years ago, the British government seemed to be on the verge of doing something truly novel about racial and ethnic inequality. Theresa May, the prime minister at the time, had adopted a plan to root out one of the causes of differences in incomes that would “create a fairer and more diverse work force,” she said.

It was October 2018, during Britain’s Black History Month. Ms. May suggested the government require companies and other large employers to report the disparities in pay among their employees based on ethnicity, as they had recently been made to do for gender. She announced a three-month public comment period, or consultation, toward the goal of introducing a new regulation.

“Too often ethnic minority employees feel they’re hitting a brick wall when it comes to career progression,” Ms. May said. Collecting and analyzing this data, which no other country seems to require, could enable companies to see disparities in pay and identify reasons, such as a lack of Black managers in senior positions, and do something about it.

But after the comment period closed in January 2019, little was heard about it.

Little, that is, until a surge of anti-racism protests this summer, provoked by the killing of George Floyd, revived the idea. In June, a petition to make ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory amassed more than 100,000 signatures. In response, the government said that it would publish an update by the end of the year, having received more than 300 comments from businesses and other organizations.

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Credit…Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press

The failure to demonstrate progress for a year a half was not lost on David Isaac, the departing chairman of the government’s Equality and Human Rights Commission. Last month, he said establishing the pay gap rule would be a quick win for the government, as he accused it of “dragging its feet” on action to address racial and ethnic inequality.

Since Mr. Isaac’s chairmanship of the commission began four years ago there have been three prime ministers from the same political party, two general elections, Brexit and a pandemic. There have also been four government-sponsored reviews focused on issues of ethnic inequality that have produced nearly 100 recommendations.

Mr. Isaac said that when he took over at the human rights commission, he believed he could achieve a lot, and he says he has since succeeded in helping more people fight legal battles for equal rights. But as he left his post, he still questioned why the government hadn’t taken advantage of a growing desire by businesses to do more to address inequality, and urged for more action instead of reviews.

“The time for more recommendations, in my view, is over,” he told the BBC. “We know what needs to be done, let’s get on with it.”

Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, said it was “just simply not true” that the government had dragged its heels on the issue. For example, she said, policymakers were working toward adopting most of the recommendations from a 2017 review of how “Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals” were treated in the criminal justice system. Among the proposals was collecting more complete ethnicity data across the system and recruiting a more diverse prison staff.

In response to Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Mr. Johnson has also created a new commission focused on race and ethnic disparities that will make recommendations for government action by the end of the year. This new board will be a fresh start, Ms. Badenoch told the BBC.

“We’ve picked commissioners who haven’t really done this sort of review before so they wouldn’t be bringing in prejudged recommendations,” she said. “There must be no jumping to conclusions.” She added that the commission would also look into why there was a public perception that the government hadn’t done enough to improve equality.

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Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Amid mounting outrage about inequalities, ethnicity pay gap reporting is something that could be done quickly, Mr. Isaac said in an interview with The New York Times in early August, in part because of the work already done by Ms. May’s government to collect data about ethnic disparities across society.

Mr. Isaac is a lawyer who was once chairman of the L.G.B.T. charity Stonewall. The Equality and Human Rights Commission he led is responsible for enforcing the 2017 legislation that makes it mandatory for companies, charities and public sector organizations with more than 250 employees to publicly report the median and average pay difference between men and women on their payrolls each year. (Organizations were given a break this year, as the reporting deadline fell during the first weeks of lockdown to curb the pandemic.)

Since Mr. Johnson became prime minister, six months after the ethnicity consultation ended, the idea lost its urgency, possibly because leaving the European Union and tackling coronavirus has consumed more of the government’s energy, Mr. Isaac said. But, he added, “this is a leadership issue and a real opportunity to move quickly should the government really wish to do that.”

That said, there are additional challenges to reporting on ethnicity that are distinct from gender reporting. The thorniest issue is privacy. Employers have to get their staff to voluntarily disclose their ethnicity. There will also be companies that lack enough diversity to publish a nuanced breakdown of the data, or publish any data at all, without jeopardizing staff anonymity. (The government offers 18 different classifications of ethnic groups for census data in England and Wales.) And the severity of inequality and underrepresentation can really vary by region. Ethnic minorities make up just 14 percent of Britain’s total population but in London, 40 percent of people identify as having an Asian, Black, Arab, or multiple ethnic backgrounds.

In response to the online petition on ethnicity pay gap reporting, the government said it had done voluntary testing of the methodology in 2019 with a range of businesses, which highlighted “the genuine difficulties” in designing a policy that provides accurate information and protects anonymity.

One way to get around some of these difficulties has been demonstrated by Deloitte, the auditing and financial advisory firm that is one of a handful of companies in Britain that have voluntarily published their own data.

Deloitte offers a single pay gap, showing the difference in pay between whites and all others. The latest report found that the median pay for the group it identified as Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in 2018 was 7.9 percent less than whites, compared with a 6.9 percent gap the year before. The gap for bonuses narrowed, to 25 percent from 30 percent in 2017. This report was made public, but internally more granular data was studied to help make decisions, said Clare Rowe, Deloitte U.K.’s head of inclusion.

A more detailed analysis is needed because a binary pay gap figure, modeled on how gender pay gap reporting is done, can conceal disparities between different ethnic groups. For example, according to a government survey, average hourly pay in Britain in 2018 was 11.82 pounds ($15.53). For white British people it was £11.90 and higher than that for people who are Indian. But Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people received pay that was below the national average.

Business in the Community, a charity focused on responsible business practices, has been pushing for the government to require ethnicity pay gap reporting since 2018, when a study it did found that just 11 percent of people in Britain said their employer was collecting ethnicity pay data, and only half of those were then making it public.

Reporting this data “alone can’t fix everything, but it does ensure that this conversation remains at the top table and that there are actions to follow through on that,” said Sandra Kerr, the charity’s race equality director. “Because looking at the data you can’t just sit back and say, ‘Oh, that’s really terrible.’ You then have to act and say what you are going to do.”

Last month, the government said it would announce by the end of the year how it planned to proceed. Some are not waiting: In the past two months, more than 150 companies have signed on to Business in the Community’s Race at Work Charter, according to Ms. Kerr. The charter encourages, but does not require, the firms to capture ethnicity data as a step toward publishing information on pay gaps.

Mr. Isaac is clear, however, that the requirement needs to be enforced.

“If it’s discretionary, the exemplars will do it and are already doing it,” he said. But others won’t, given all the other pressures created by the pandemic, he said.

“There’s a general appetite now that has never existed in the same way before,” Mr. Isaac said. “Covid and the murder of George Floyd create that kind of tipping point when everybody has been shocked and everybody is keen to be an ally and do things. So why not take advantage of that?”

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Want More Diversity? Some Experts Say Reward C.E.O.s for It

When Charles E. Jones, the chief executive of a large Ohio-based utility, realized that his senior executives weren’t fully behind his push to hire and promote people of color and women, he decided to do something to get their attention.

In 2018, Mr. Jones linked 10 percent of annual bonuses for himself and other top executives at his company, FirstEnergy, to diversity goals, and increased the number to 15 percent the next year. “I’ve got experience that suggests that if you tie compensation to the things you want to have accomplished, you are much more successful at getting them accomplished,” he said.

Mr. Jones’s approach is striking because it is extremely rare in corporate America. But he and other management experts say it shouldn’t be. For decades, companies and top business schools have preached the gospel of tying pay to all manner of business goals, like stock price performance and profits.

Yet just 78 of roughly 3,000 companies said fulfilling diversity goals determined some portion of chief executives’ pay, according to an analysis of public pay disclosures by Pearl Meyer, a compensation consulting firm. Of those, only 11 revealed the share of pay affected by fulfilling diversity goals, and 21 gave some details of their diversity goals.

The issue has gained new salience in recent weeks as businesses across the United States have declared support for Black Lives Matter, pledged to hire more people of color and ditched decades-old brands like Aunt Jemima that were built on racist imagery.

Charles A. Tribbett III, a consultant who advises large corporations about hiring and compensation, said many executives and board members were discussing whether to link pay to diversity goals, a change he endorsed. “I believe the time is now for that discussion to be turned into action,” said Mr. Tribbett, a managing director at Russell Reynolds.

Deb Lifshey, a managing director at Pearl Meyer, agreed that there was growing interest in the practice, though she said it was too early to say whether it would be sustained. “Whether or not this will have a material impact on how much compensation they’re making is hard to tell,” she said.

Only five of the Fortune 500 companies have Black chief executives, and some of the most successful American companies haven’t significantly increased the number of African-Americans in their senior ranks.

Making diversity targets part of compensation and disclosing them would not just give top executives a financial incentive to hire and promote more Black and Latino people, but also provide a public scorecard that employees and shareholders could use to determine whether companies were following through on their commitments.

FirstEnergy paid out nothing on the diversity-related part of the bonus in 2018 after the company fell short on two of three targets. Last year, it paid out the segment of the bonus for meeting two of the goals: hiring women and people from underrepresented ethnic groups for professional jobs, and including them as candidates in succession plans. But executives fell short on a measure related to how employees responded to questions about diversity in a company survey.

Mr. Jones said most people at his company did not discriminate against Black and brown people, but he believes some do. “Quite frankly, in a company like ours, which is 90 percent white, you actually have outright racism that still exists, that we have to deal with,” he said.

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Credit…FirstEnergy
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Credit…Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa USA

Even as an old-economy business like FirstEnergy has embraced a relatively progressive policy, other businesses widely considered to be liberal bastions, like Google and Facebook, have not.

In 2018, Zevin Asset Management, a Boston-based investment firm that says it takes a “socially responsible” approach, proposed that Google connect some executive pay to diversity, among other measures, but the measure was soundly defeated.

“We saw companies saying a lot about how they want to move the needle in the tech space but not disclosing a lot or setting goals,” Pat Miguel Tomaino, a director at Zevin, said. “Nothing trumps having a part of your compensation at risk on a key business initiative.”

Top tech executives are accustomed to having formal targets built into their pay. Last year, Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, received a compensation package valued at $280.6 million. Just over $121 million of it came in units linked to the stock performance of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

Founders like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Alphabet do not receive cash bonuses or stock-based compensation. But they control so much of their companies’ voting stock that they could pretty much single-handedly approve the inclusion of diversity targets in executive compensation. Facebook, for example, valued the 2019 compensation of its chief operating officer, Sheryl K. Sandberg, at $27 million.

Facebook said it had made “bold goals to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace,” adding that leaders were evaluated on inclusion and recruitment in their performance reviews. Google declined to comment.

That said, some tech companies have linked pay and diversity.

Achieving diversity goals helps determine one-sixth of the cash bonus of Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, a bonus that last year totaled $10.8 million. “This is an important demonstration of executive commitment to creating an inclusive workplace, and we find this helps ensure there is shared accountability to make progress,” the company said in a statement.

Uber, which in the past was criticized for a cutthroat work culture, perhaps goes further than any other company. Diversity targets are embedded in the stock compensation of its chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, accounting for a fourth of his performance-based stock awards. Uber valued his performance award for last year at $6.25 million. The goals include achieving growth in the percentage of workers who are from underrepresented ethnic groups at the senior analyst level and above over a three-year period that has not ended.

Bo Young Lee, Uber’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, said the policy had “really crystallized what we’re trying to achieve, and gave something for us to pivot off of, and explore other aspects of our diversity and inclusion strategy.”

But diversity-related goals may end up having less bite than advertised because they might be relatively easy to achieve, which can be hard to evaluate when companies do not disclose details about their goals. In addition, even companies that use this approach do not let it determine a sizable portion of overall pay.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to bolster the hiring and promotion of people of color and women, experts say. Regularly disclosing in meaningful detail how the company is performing on important diversity metrics can help employees hold senior executives accountable. Mr. Tomaino, the activist investor, says Google is a leader in providing useful information in its diversity report. The report, for example, shows that Black employees are more likely to leave than the average employee.

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Credit…Nina Westervelt/Bloomberg

Some companies, like JPMorgan Chase, the country’s largest bank, claimed they could do more without strict goals. Joseph Evangelisti, a JPMorgan spokesman, said the bank had increased the number of Black professionals — managing and executive directors — by more than half over the last four years.

The board and its top leaders do not “believe in using a simple, formulaic, short-term approach,” he said, “because they’re looking to our leaders to develop and implement strategies that provide long-term, sustainable outcomes to drive diversity, equity, inclusion and, ultimately, success of our diverse employees.” JPMorgan did not say what percentage of professionals were Black employees.

But activist investors say they will keep pressing for diversity targets for senior executive pay. “The issue here is that we’re in a multiethnic country where wealth is controlled by white people,” Mr. Tomaino said. “It’d make sense for companies that possess big levers to help create change.”

Mr. Tribbett, the consultant, said that even though companies might disclose and meet diversity goals, it was particularly important to look at whether this meant they were succeeding in hiring and promoting Black employees in particular.

“What we’re trying to achieve right now is an increase in African-Americans into the boardroom and into the C-suite and up the ladder of the company,” he said. “So when a C.E.O. metric is positively achieved, but within that metric the Black portion of it still has not been achieved, then I think we have failed.”

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How Investors Are Addressing Racial Injustice

Socially responsible investing has been putting billions of dollars to work for social change for decades.

In some cases, the strategy means avoiding certain sectors. Religious organizations, for instance, steer clear of alcohol, firearms, tobacco and other “sin” stocks.

Some investors focus on companies that are already socially responsible to help them thrive, while starving competitors that are less responsible.

And others aim to change the practices at the companies themselves. By buying enough shares to get a seat at the table, they have a voice in issues like climate change, worker’s rights and gender discrimination.

For several years now, investors and advisers have applied the socially responsible lens to creating portfolios that consider racial inclusion and diversity. The social unrest incited by the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by a Minneapolis police officer has added urgency to the movement.

“We had our own list of publicly traded companies that we’ve been excluding from our portfolios for years,” said Rachel J. Robasciotti, chief executive and founder of Robasciotti & Philipson, an investment adviser. “We never thought there was a reason to share that. But now we are saying, here are the companies we don’t invest in and why.”

How investments are made to promote this goal varies. But the different strategies are working toward a similar objective: to get companies and municipalities to operate more equitably.

Allocating capital is an expression of belief, starting with the belief that the investment is going to grow over time. But it can also be a means to force, support or accelerate change within an organization.

The trouble is, perfect is the enemy of good.

Companies are on a continuum: They are good at some things but not everything, said Erika Karp, founder and chief executive of Cornerstone Capital.

That means investors should know what they want and what they will accept. “Do you want to divest or do you want to engage with companies and push for change?” Ms. Karp said. “Both are OK. You just need to be consistent.”

Look for companies that are making changes and becoming more inclusive, she said. That momentum is a more important indicator than a score that may be stagnant. It’s also a barometer of a company’s intellectual honesty.

“Don’t tell me you’re all in for racial justice and then you don’t even make an attempt to drive executives of color into leadership roles,” she said.

Many of the basic tenants of the environmental, social and governance investment analysis apply to racial inclusion, said John Streur, president and chief executive of Calvert Research and Management.

“You certainly pick up quickly on board diversity,” he said. More telling is whether companies publicly disclose their diversity filings to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They are required to make the report to the commission but do not have to publicly say what the results are.

“Only a few give you the data, and they’re not all great at all,” he said. Calvert is pushing companies it invests in to make those disclosures.

And individual investors should vote for the initiatives on their annual proxies, Mr. Streur said. Last year, of the 30 proxy initiatives related to diversity and inclusion that Calvert supported, only four passed, he said.

Some managers take exception with an approach known as “best in class” because investors are still providing capital to industries that are against their interests. The best-run oil company, for example, is still pulling fossil fuels out of the ground.

“It’s really taking a stance that this business should not exist,” said Ms. Robasciotti, of Robasciotti & Philipson, which is majority owned by women and blacks. “The ‘best in class’ allows unsustainable businesses to continue.”

With a focus on social justice, her firm created a list of companies it would not invest in because of work they do in six sectors: prisons, immigrant detention, bail, surveillance, for-profit colleges and involvement in the occupied territories like the West Bank.

The list includes companies that indirectly support racial injustice, she said, like the food service companies Sodexo and Aramark for their prison work and Amazon for its facial recognition software.

The firm puts all clients into tailored portfolios based on return on investment and social equity. Other areas of focus are gender and economic equality and climate change.

“Allowing investors to pick and choose makes the investor feel good, but it doesn’t push the movement forward, and that’s what we want to do,” she said. “It’s that solidarity that matters.”

Similarly, Ethic, an asset manager that creates separately managed accounts to invest in racial justice and other social responsibility themes, screens out companies that provide services to sectors it does not support. For example, it screens out companies that use cheap prison labor and identifies telephone companies that charge prisoners exorbitant rates to call family members, said Jay Lipman, a co-founder and president.

“Our technology helps you report on what you’re investing in,” Mr. Lipman said.

Twenty-six of the top foundations had 13.5 percent of their assets managed by firms owned by women or people of color, according to a report released this week by the Knight Foundation, which supports journalism and equitable communities. But in the investment industry as a whole, only 1 percent of assets are managed by firms owned by women or people of color.

What drove the foundation’s research was a look at its own management structure in 2010. At the time, the foundation, which oversaw $2.3 billion, had only one African-American manager, who oversaw a mere $7.5 million, said Juan J. Martinez, the foundation’s chief financial officer.

“We were very surprised,” Mr. Martinez said. That prompted the foundation to begin asking about the ownership of investment firms as part of its due diligence process. It now has 30 percent of its assets managed by women- and minority-owned firms, and its returns have continued to be strong.

He took issue with the assumption that the foundation was not focused on returns and that the minority- and women-owned firms had lower returns.” The data doesn’t bear that out,” he said.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which has an $1.2 billion endowment, announced this week that it would add grants to address racial justice and democracy. But for the past decade, it has been realigning its assets — including grant making, investments and its reputational capital — with its overall mission.

The Rockefeller fund found that it had come up short on the diversity of investment managers, with just 12.3 percent women or minorities. It has announced it will double that percentage, but has not revealed a timeline.

Beyond investing more in firms owned by minorities, the fund is looking to add firms that have minority leadership and a pipeline of younger leaders. It is also tracking the diversity of the investment portfolio itself, all of which will be published starting at the end of the year.

“The lever for change is the capital itself,” said Stephen B. Heintz, president and chief executive of Rockefeller Brothers Fund. “That in itself has meaning in the marketplace.”

Mr. Heintz said the fund’s strategy can be replicated by individual investors, who can ask their advisers how much of their investments are managed by minorities and to press them if they don’t have the answers.

“Those answers at the individual level may not be very satisfying, but more people asking them means the market system works,” he said. “The more you ask for it, the more data you have.”

Investors can also seek larger changes on racial justice through the municipal bonds sold by local and state governments.

The types of revenue that support these bonds vary greatly in credit quality, said Ryan Bowers, a co-founder of the Activest social justice fund. Income from property taxes is the most stable, but many towns and cities derive a large portion from fining their citizens.

When Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo, a quarter of that city’s municipal budget consisted of fines and fees collected from its predominantly African-American base for minor offenses like broken taillights and jaywalking. “The national average then was less than 2 percent from fines,” Mr. Bowers said.

Thousands of other places rely excessively on fines: Chicago, for example, counts on fines for nearly 10 percent of its more than $3 billion of annual revenue.

“It’s hard to budget for fines and fees without infringing on people’s constitutional rights,” said Napoleon Wallace, a co-founder of Activest.

He said the municipal bond market had not looked closely enough at where revenue comes from. “As a result, you have these municipalities that are operating in the worst interest of their bond holders and their residents,” he said.

Ferguson now derives less than 10 percent of its revenue from fines and fees, Mr. Wallace said. “We believe we have the opportunity to support the places that are doing well,” he said, “and motivate the places that are doing poorly to do well.”

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He Says a Union Fired Him Over His Push for Police Reform

When Gabriel Acevero, a Maryland state legislator employed by a union local, introduced a bill last year to roll back protections for police accused of misconduct, he was stepping on a potential fault line. His union, Local 1994 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, represents thousands of Black and Latino workers in food services and at a variety of government agencies. It also includes a small portion of workers in law enforcement.

That fault line turned out to be a chasm that could swallow him up. In mid-June, Mr. Acevero filed a formal charge with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the union of illegally firing him because of his reform advocacy.

“The reason why I was terminated,” Mr. Acevero said, “was about legislation.”

The union local’s president, Gino Renne, said he fired Mr. Acevero because of his antagonistic attitude at a meeting to discuss the issue. But he also said Mr. Acevero’s stand complicated “our obligation to represent our members.”

As killings of Black men in police custody have exposed deep tensions across American society, few institutions have been as precariously positioned as organized labor. In recent weeks, millions of union members, many of them nonwhite, have called for far-reaching changes to policing practices. Some of those demands have been aimed at the police unions that have long resisted change.

This has, in turn, complicated life for thousands of national, state and local labor officials.

Over all, according to estimates based on government data, about 55 percent of the nation’s roughly 700,000 police officers were union members last year.

While the largest police organization, the Fraternal Order of Police, has only a tenuous relationship with the labor movement, many unions count law enforcement officers among their diverse membership. Leaders of these unions acknowledge the urgency of reform, but fear that distancing themselves from law enforcement colleagues, or limiting their rights, could weaken labor and create pressure to roll back protections for other workers.

“We have to be very careful in the labor movement that we don’t stand up and say it’s OK to tell one group of people that they shouldn’t be able to organize,” said Terry Melvin, the secretary-treasurer of the New York State A.F.L.-C.I.O. and president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, an international organization. “That’s something that would be a slippery slope if it will open the door for others to come up with reasons that another group should not be able to organize.”

Over the past few weeks, the jostling among these interests has produced a mix of awkward compromises, papered-over differences and outright flare-ups, with no resolution in sight.

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Credit…Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

The national A.F.L.-C.I.O. — which counts the International Union of Police Associations, with its tens of thousands of members, as an affiliate, in addition to officers in other unions — has endorsed a wide-ranging police reform agenda. That includes legislation by House Democrats that lowers the threshold for prosecuting misconduct, effectively bans chokeholds and certain no-knock warrants and would create a national database for tracking misconduct.

In at least one prominent instance, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s position appears contradictory. The federation formally backed a recent resolution passed by Seattle’s labor council calling on the local police union to become a partner in reform or risk expulsion. Yet the A.F.L.-C.I.O. leadership opposes the expulsion of police unions, a step taken by the Seattle council in mid-June.

“We supported that resolution,” the federation’s president, Richard Trumka, said in an interview, before adding: “We believe that it is not the time to disaffiliate. We believe the best way to use our influence on the issue of police brutality is to engage with police unions.”

Some of the country’s largest and most progressive unions, like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, also represent groups of law enforcement officers, prompting their leaders to walk a similar line. In some cases law enforcement unions have shown solidarity with other unions, such as during contract negotiations and campaigns for scheduling reforms.

Yet just below the national leadership, seams have begun to show. Kyle Bragg, the president of the service employees’ Local 32BJ, which represents tens of thousands of cleaners and other building workers across the Northeast, rejoiced over the recent repeal — over police unions’ objections — of a New York statute that was used to keep officers’ disciplinary records from public view.

But he said his largely minority membership wanted lawmakers to go much further. “The blue wall really has to come down,” Mr. Bragg said in an interview. “I don’t have the ability to bargain ‘no penalties, no consequences, no accountability’ for my members if they do something egregious on the job.” The union also supports redirecting “some of the massive spending on policing” to schools, health care and housing, according to a spokeswoman.

Mr. Bragg said he had discussed police reform with leaders across the S.E.I.U., including officials of the police union that represents the officers involved in the recent killing of Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy’s in Atlanta.

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Credit…Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

“We are constantly talking to our brothers and sisters in those unions about these issues,” he said. “No one has shut a door. Obviously there are issues that law enforcement unions have against some of the more popular demands that are being made nationwide.”

The limits of internal labor dialogue have also become apparent. In Seattle, the police union responded to the labor council’s ultimatum with a letter acknowledging that structural racism causes “undue harm” to people of color and promising “to embrace reform and accountability.” The two sides had what was by all accounts an earnest discussion of the problem during a two-and-a-half hour meeting, yet the labor council still voted to expel the police union.

Their views may have simply been irreconcilable. Near the end of the conversation, Nicole Grant, the labor council’s executive secretary-treasurer, cited the killing of a mentally disturbed woman by the Seattle police in 2017, after the woman reportedly brandished a knife, as evidence that policing needed to be rethought.

“I said this can never happen in Seattle again,” Ms. Grant recalled. But she said the union head, Mike Solan, interpreted the episode differently. “Solan’s response was that it was tragic, but that it will happen again,” because of human nature, Ms. Grant said.

Mr. Solan said in an interview that the death reflected a breakdown of other systems, not policing, and that the police had de-escalated a similar situation involving the same woman two weeks earlier, but that her behavior had remained erratic after a judge released her from custody. “For de-escalation to work, it takes two parties,” he said. “The person on the other end of police interaction has a say in how that interaction goes.”

In some ways, the differences between Mr. Acevero, the Maryland lawmaker who was fired from his union position, and his boss at the union, Mr. Renne, proved equally insurmountable.

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Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Mr. Acevero was a Black Lives Matter activist when he began working for the union local in 2016, and continued to be outspoken about police reform. In 2019, after successfully running for the Maryland House of Delegates, a part-time position, he introduced a bill known as Anton’s Law that would have required police departments to release records of complaints against officers.

Later that year, he pushed for similar measures, such as a repeal of the state’s so-called Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, which provides procedural protections for police accused of misconduct.

In December 2019, after Mr. Renne received complaints about Mr. Acevero’s reform advocacy from the head of the local Fraternal Order of Police, and from sheriff’s deputies represented by the food workers’ union, Mr. Renne gathered them all for a meeting to address the concerns.

According to contemporaneous notes from one person in attendance, Mr. Renne, a former sheriff’s deputy, told Mr. Acevero he favored a more constructive approach to addressing police misconduct. Torrie Cooke, the local president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said a labor official shouldn’t be promoting anti-labor laws. Both Mr. Acevero and Mr. Cooke are Black.

After Mr. Acevero responded that he favored collective bargaining rights but that existing protections shielded “corrupt cops,” the conversation became more heated, according to both men and other participants. Then Mr. Renne abruptly told him he was fired.

The two union leaders, Mr. Renne and Mr. Cooke, “were attempting to get me to stop working on that legislation, and I refused,” Mr. Acevero said in an interview. He said that the entire meeting was inappropriate because it was intended to pressure him in his role as a public official, which had nothing to do with his union obligations.

Mr. Cooke, the police union president, said that he played no role in Mr. Acevero’s firing. Mr. Renne said he took the action because of Mr. Acevero’s inappropriate manner at the meeting, not his position on police reform.

But he acknowledged that it would have been difficult to continue to employ Mr. Acevero because his advocacy “compromises our position as a union.”

Wilma B. Liebman, a former chairwoman of the National Labor Relations Board, said that firing an employee for outside work on police reform could be interpreted as a violation of labor rights. But the burden is on the employee to show how the reform efforts affect work life and conditions, she said.

In many ways the incident was a harbinger of the strains to come. Asked how he might balance the escalating demands of his predominantly minority membership for police reform against the anxieties of his law enforcement members, Mr. Renne professed a measure of befuddlement. “It’s a tightrope,” he said, before noting that the country’s current policing model isn’t working.

“If you are an exclusive police union, taking a position for or against reform is not as challenging,” Mr. Renne continued. “But when you are a union such as myself and other unions in the labor movement who are not exclusive law enforcement unions, this becomes a much more complex challenge.”

Marc Tracy contributed reporting.

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The Stark Racial Inequity of Personal Finances in America

We cannot quantify the injustice of a white policeman holding his knee on the neck of a handcuffed, dying black man. And mere numbers cannot fully express the power imbalance involved in the deaths of George Floyd and too many others like him.

But we can measure the economic inequity that serves as their backdrop.

Dollars are like air — crucial to vitality. And when it comes to wealth, black Americans have less at nearly every juncture of life, from birth to death.

Perversely, having less can cost more. Black students borrow more to go to college, don’t finish as often and more frequently default on their student loans. They earn less, and generally have lower credit scores — so they pay higher interest rates. It’s harder for them to save for retirement, and they leave less to the next generation when they die.

An imbalance of societal power cannot be separated from cradle-to-grave economic inequality. This is what that looks like.

From board books for toddlers to quality care, it can be costly to get a child started in life. And black families typically have fewer financial resources to draw on.

Black families with a new baby have a median household income of $36,300, according to an analysis of 2018 census data by the Center on Poverty & Social Policy. For white families, it was more than twice as much: $80,000.

Black families were behind other groups, too. For Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, the median income was $105,600. Among multiracial families, the figure was $64,000. Hispanic families had $48,400 in income, and Native American and Alaskan Native families had $41,000.

Starting with less makes many things in the future that much harder. For example, every unspent dollar of earnings can potentially be saved for higher education.

Once a child enrolls in college, graduating with a bachelor’s degree isn’t a given. But here, too, blacks have it worse than nearly any other group.

Their six-year completion rate through June 2017 for students starting at a four-year institution was 38.9 percent, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. For whites, it was 64.8 percent — even though both groups graduate from high school at roughly the same rate.

Asian-Americans (72.1 percent), mixed-race students (54.5 percent) and Hispanics (50.5 percent) were also ahead of blacks. Only Native Americans and Alaskan Natives finished at a lower rate: Just 26.3 percent within six years.

Starting but not finishing is often the worst of both worlds: Large numbers of these students end up with debt, but they don’t get the degree and the earnings boost that usually come with it.

A college education is supposed to help pave a path to financial security. For many black students, that’s far from guaranteed: They tend to borrow significantly more than their white peers, and they’re more likely to default on their loans.

Twenty-one percent of black graduates with bachelor’s degrees default. That’s more than five times the rate of their white peers (4 percent). Even white dropouts (18 percent) are less likely to default, according to a 2018 analysis by Judith Scott-Clayton, an associate professor of economics and education in the Economics and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University.

She looked at data for people who started school for the first time in the 2003-4 academic year and analyzed their experiences over the next dozen years. Only 1.4 percent of Asian bachelor’s degree graduates defaulted during that period, with Hispanic graduates defaulting 8.6 percent of the time.

Black students who earned bachelor’s degrees also accumulated more debt than whites. They borrowed $21,149 on average, nearly twice as much as whites, by the time they left school. (This includes students who didn’t borrow at all.) But it got worse after that: By the end of the 12-year period that Ms. Scott-Clayton examined, blacks owed $64,142 — three times as much as whites. That’s because black degree-holders had both higher levels of graduate school borrowing and lower rates of repayment.

Even with a college degree, black Americans can’t count on getting a paycheck of the same size.

The black/white wage gap was significantly wider in 2019 than at the start of the century — even as Hispanic workers have slightly narrowed their own gap with white workers, according to research from the Economic Policy Institute.

But the gap isn’t a function of differences in education levels. Even among those who attain advanced degrees, blacks were paid 82.4 cents for every dollar earned by their white peers. Hispanics do better, at 90.1 cents on the dollar.

And the gender pay gap expands the racial gap into a chasm: Black women, on average, earn 64 cents for every dollar a white man earns, according to another report from the institute.

The home is the largest asset for many American families, which may help build wealth over time. Paying down a mortgage often serves as a forced savings plan, enabling families to build equity that they can tap in retirement or leave to their heirs.

Black families have long been behind their white peers in homeownership, but that gap is the largest it has been in a half-century, according to the Urban Institute.

In 2018, about 72 percent of white households owned homes, compared with nearly 41.7 percent of blacks, 47.5 percent of Hispanics and 59.5 percent of Asians, according to the institute, using the 2018 American Community Survey. In 1960, nearly 65 percent of whites owned homes, compared with 38.1 percent of blacks, 45.2 percent of Hispanics and 42.8 percent of Asians, according to an analysis of census data.

“The gap in the homeownership rate between black and white families in the U.S. is bigger today than it was when it was legal to refuse to sell someone a home because of the color of their skin,” the Urban Institute wrote.

The science of measuring retirement assets is imperfect, because older Americans can draw on any number of resources if they have them, including home equity, a pension and Social Security.

Those assets aren’t as flexible, however, as a workplace savings plan like a 401(k) or an individual retirement account. Blacks are less likely to have such accounts, and tend to have less in them when they do.

Sixty percent of white families have at least one retirement account, while just 34 percent of black families do, according to the most recent Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, which drew on data from 2016. Hispanic families have even fewer, at 30 percent. (The survey does not break other groups into distinct categories.)

Families with white heads of household have balances that dwarf the holdings of families headed by blacks, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, which looked at the same Federal Reserve data and measured families with family heads between the ages of 55 and 64.

The median balance was $151,000 for whites and $46,100 for blacks. Hispanics had the lowest numbers here, too, with a median of $43,000.

The imbalance in homeownership and retirement accounts makes it unsurprising that white households are more likely to receive an inheritance than black ones. In fact, they are about two and a half times as likely to do so, according to research from two Fed economists, Jeffrey P. Thompson and Gustavo A. Suarez.

They looked at households headed by people ages 30 to 59 in 2013 and 2016. Twenty-three percent of white families reported having received an inheritance. Just 9 percent of black families answered affirmatively, and only 5 percent of Hispanic families did so.

Whites received more, too: The median inheritance in white families was $56,217, while blacks received $38,224 and Hispanics were just behind at $37,124.

So even if white families had fallen behind in the first part of adulthood, they had a better chance of catching up with a single boost. And those who are already doing better widen the gap further when a relative dies.

At that point, the process begins anew for their kids. And their kids’ kids.

And here we are.

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For Some Minority-Owned Businesses, Their Lenders Are Now Their Defenders

On Tuesday evening in Ferguson, Mo., a dozen people formed a human chain around Reds The One and Only BBQ, a restaurant. Vandals had smashed other storefronts in the area amid protests over the killing of George Floyd in police custody, but Reds was still standing.

By forming a protective line around the restaurant, the group was hoping to discourage any further violence. For two hours, members of the chain kept vigil. But they were neither hired guards, nor friends or relatives of the restaurant’s owner, Red Harris. They were employees of Mr. Harris’s lender, a community organization called Justine Petersen.

Galen Gondolfi, a senior loan counselor at Justine Petersen, said the gesture was largely symbolic because his group was not set up to provide physical protection. But nonetheless, he said, it was a way to show clients its commitment “literally and figuratively.”

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Credit…Vanessa Charlot for The New York Times
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Credit…Vanessa Charlot for The New York Times

Groups such as Justine Petersen, which mostly lend to minority-owned businesses across the United States, are not regular banks. They are called Community Development Financial Institutions, and they use a combination of government funds and private donations to seed businesses that banks won’t deal with because they view their owners as too poor and too disconnected from the financial system to qualify for standard loans.

Many C.D.F.I.s, which first came into existence in the early 1970s, evolved out of groups that were formed to help minorities recover from attacks — like the 1921 massacre of black Americans in Tulsa, Okla. — that have occurred regularly throughout America’s history. More recently, during the coronavirus pandemic, such groups have been the go-to lenders for minority business owners who could not find a bank to help them tap a federal government aid program.

C.D.F.I.s, which are often nonprofits, offer their borrowers far more than just cash. They also walk them through the myriad paperwork required to get their businesses up and running, offer them management training and sometimes even provide spaces from which to launch.

But the looting and damage that have marred protests in the past week have added a new set of tasks for many of these organizations, akin to those of a security guard or emergency workers. In places like Ferguson, Minneapolis and Wilmington, Del., where violent groups have destroyed property by smashing windows and setting fires, representatives from these lenders have been the first to make contact with devastated business owners and help organize their defense.

“We’re like the National Guard for small businesses,” Mr. Gondolfi of Justine Petersen said. “I love the idea of us being dispatched.”

His organization has long had a presence in Ferguson. When vandals destroyed businesses there during protests after the killing of an unarmed local teenager, Michael Brown, by a police officer in 2014, the group made small loans to around two dozen businesses to help them get up and running again.

“Historically, events like these have a 10- to 20-year impact,” said Paul Calistro, the founder of Cornerstone West, a community development organization in Wilmington. Mr. Calistro is working with other groups to contact small businesses that were damaged last weekend and provide the funds they need to rebuild.

But, he said, “it’s not just in money — it’s in time.”

C.D.F.I.s have helped revive poor neighborhoods, replacing empty storefronts with active commercial spaces, increasing local economic activity, building residents’ wealth and reducing crime. Because they make a wide variety of loans, including housing loans, they amass deep knowledge of their neighborhoods and can tailor their activities to the area’s needs.

Over the past 35 years, they have made loans that helped start more than 400,000 small businesses around the country, according to the Opportunity Finance Network, the trade group that represents them. Around 58 percent of their borrowers are minorities, according to the trade group’s data. Their lending, which is a mix of small-business loans and loans to housing and community facility projects, has totaled more than $74 billion over that time.

In Minneapolis, three organizations that focus on minority businesses have helped transform the Midtown neighborhood from a depressed area with few active businesses to a trendy spot where small businesses flourish and city residents flock. The charitable aspect of the groups’ missions has helped to keep the ills of gentrification at bay.

But the current violence is threatening that progress.

Minneapolis is where the bulk of the destruction has occurred so far, and local officials said it was the result of premeditated attacks on black- and Hispanic-owned businesses.

Jeff Hayden, a state senator whose district includes the Midtown neighborhood, said Minnesota officials found evidence that fire-starting materials had been stashed in the neighborhood ahead of recent planned protests and that businesses had been marked for attack.

“Based on what the governor is able to share with us and based on what we see on the ground, there was definitely a coordinated attack,” Mr. Hayden said in an interview on Monday. “It was clear that they were going after ethnic businesses.”

Rolando Borja, whose firm, Integrated Staffing Solutions, helps connect Minneapolis-area companies with workers who have often just arrived from Puerto Rico or from other countries, was relieved when, at first, his storefront in Midtown was spared. After seeing footage on the nightly news of nearby windows breaking and buildings burning, Mr. Borja ventured out on Wednesday last week to check on his space and found it covered in graffiti but otherwise intact. At 5 the next morning, however, an employee called him in tears: His building had been burned to the ground.

Meda, the C.D.F.I. that lent Mr. Borja money when he started out 10 years ago and helped him get aid under the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program when the pandemic forced him to shut down this year, is where he will turn to again to rebuild.

“Meda, for me, has been a partner through the whole life of my business, helping me out to have access to capital, access to legal advice, business consulting, everything,” Mr. Borja said.

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Credit…Russell Frederick for The New York Times

Alfredo Martel, chief executive of Meda, said his staff had been walking the streets assessing the damage. “We are at this point like economic first responders.” But, he added, “We’re not cops, we’re not firemen or E.M.T.s.”

He is appealing to anyone in the neighborhood who has sustained damage to call Meda and report experiences and needs, and says Meda is prepared to help them start again from the ground up. After all, Mr. Martel pointed out, his group was formed to help another Minneapolis neighborhood rebuild itself after riots over police brutality destroyed it 53 years ago, in the summer of 1967.

While Meda’s staff is looking to help businesses rebuild, another Midtown development organization is trying to prevent the ones still standing from being attacked again. Its founder, Mihailo Temali, was so worried about the premeditated aspect of the attacks that he asked The New York Times not to name his organization.

Mr. Temali has been helping organize neighborhood watches, inspecting newly painted graffiti for signs that it was meant to designate a particular location for an attack and encouraging the business owners his group has funded to defend their spaces by making sure they have someone stationed there each night.

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Job or Health? Restarting the Economy Threatens to Worsen Economic Inequality

WASHINGTON — Efforts to quickly restart economic activity risk further dividing Americans into two major groups along socioeconomic lines: one that has the power to control its exposure to the coronavirus outbreak and another that is forced to choose between potential sickness or financial devastation.

It is a pick-your-poison fact of the crisis: The pandemic recession has knocked millions of the most economically vulnerable Americans out of work. Rushing to reopen their employers could offer them a financial lifeline, but at a potentially steep cost to their health.

State and federal officials have nowhere near the testing capacity that experts say is needed to track and limit the spread of the virus, and there is no vaccine yet. But states are already reopening, urged on by President Trump, who is eager to restart the United States economy.

That push is likely to exacerbate longstanding inequalities, with workers who are college educated, relatively affluent and primarily white able to continue working from home and minimizing outdoor excursions to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

Those who are lower paid, less educated and employed in jobs where teleworking is not an option would face a bleak choice if states lift restrictive orders and employers order them back to work: expose themselves to the pandemic or lose their jobs.

That disempowered group is heavily black and Latino, though it includes lower-income white workers as well.

“It’s sad and scary,” said Tina Watson of Holly Hill, S.C., who has seen her hours cut in half at the Wendy’s where she works. Though her income has dropped from that cutback, she is worried about having to interact with customers when the state relaxes limits that have forced the restaurant to operate as drive-through only in recent weeks. “I’m feeling like my life is at risk if they open up our dining,” Ms. Watson said.

A growing share of workers is increasingly stuck with that choice.

The governors of Georgia and South Carolina have begun allowing some businesses to reopen, even though both states continue to see new infections and what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call “widespread” community spread of the virus.

On Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia allowed gyms, nail and hair salons, and bowling alleys to begin operating, with restaurants and movie theaters allowed to open on Monday. Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi and Ohio are also allowing some businesses to start operating again.

Not all businesses will decide to reopen even if they are allowed to; many will choose to stay closed, fearing too few customers to make it worth the cost. That was the situation in parts of Georgia on Friday, as many establishments kept their doors shut. But furloughed workers whose employers recall them to their jobs would in most circumstances lose their unemployment benefits, even if their pay might not return to the levels they were earning before the crisis.

That is particularly difficult for manicurists or wait staff who rely on tips from customers who might not show up. They would also lose out on both regular unemployment benefits and an additional $600 a week from the federal government.

Rashad Robinson, the president of the racial justice advocacy group Color of Change, said Georgia’s governor “has targeted a whole set of businesses where black people both work and patronize.” For those workers and customers, he said, “it is an absolute death sentence.”

“The inequality we’re seeing isn’t unfortunate like a car accident,” Mr. Robinson said. “It’s unjust. It’s being manufactured through a whole set of choices.”

Even though they face higher risks from reopening, a small but meaningful share of financially hurt workers is clamoring to return to work. One in 11 Americans, according to national polling data by the digital research firm Civis Analytics, has lost a job, hours or income — or knows a family member who has — during the pandemic but opposes mandatory lockdowns.

Americans who earn $50,000 a year or less are more than twice as likely to say they or a family member have lost jobs amid the crisis as those who earn more than $150,000, the polling found. Higher earners and whites are far more likely to say they can work from home during the pandemic than lower earners and black and Latino Americans, according to an April poll for The New York Times by the online research firm SurveyMonkey.

The University of Chicago economists Simon Mongey and Alex Weinberg released a study last month on the Americans who work in jobs that require people to be in close physical proximity (like nail salon workers) or allow little chance to work from home (like fast-food or maintenance workers). They found those workers were disproportionately nonwhite, low income, born outside the United States and not college graduates.

“If it’s a fast reopening,” Mr. Mongey said, “they’re going to be in closer proximity and face higher health consequences.”

Black and Latino Americans have less ability to withstand a prolonged job loss than whites, because they entered the crisis with lower incomes and less wealth. The median black household had just under $18,000 in wealth in 2016, Federal Reserve statistics show, while the median Hispanic household had just under $21,000. The median white household had nearly 10 times more: $171,000.

In 2018, the typical Hispanic household earned three-quarters of what a typical white household earned, according to census data. The typical black household earned three-fifths of what the typical white household earned, and their household income had yet to return to pre-financial-crisis highs.

The virus has only exacerbated that inequality, with minorities suffering both higher death rates and more financial harm.

In New York City and across the country, black and Latino Americans are dying at higher rates from the virus than whites. Economic polling data shows they are also losing their jobs and income to an outsize degree. In Minnesota, the share of black workers filing for unemployment over the last month is nearly 50 percent higher than the share of white workers.

The Civis Analytics polling over the last several weeks found that black and Latino Americans were far more likely than whites to report that they had lost a job or income from the virus, or that it had caused them to miss a rent or mortgage payment or face eviction.

Calculations by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that black and Latino Americans were overrepresented in many “essential” jobs of the pandemic, like grocery store clerks and delivery drivers. In New York City, three-quarters of front-line workers in the pandemic were Americans of color. Nationwide, about one in five black workers were in the health care industry last year, compared with about one in eight white workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

The risks and damage from the virus are “disproportionately landing on the black and brown workers that are disproportionately in minimum-wage services jobs,” said Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union.

Researchers from the JPMorgan Chase Institute warned this month in a report that the coronavirus recession would hit black and Hispanic families harder in terms of lost income, forcing them to cut back their spending to a greater degree than whites, because black and Hispanic families have fewer savings to fall back on.

“There could be immense and devastating income effects that could be involved with this evolving depression,” said William A. Darity Jr., an economist at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, who is a leading scholar of economic discrimination in the United States. Inequality, he said, “has been horrendous in recent years, and I can only imagine those disparities would get worse.”

Avik Roy, a former adviser to the Republican presidential campaigns of Rick Perry and Marco Rubio, is now the president of a center-right think tank called the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, which this month released a plan to quickly restart much of the economy. It includes reopening schools while carrying out an aggressive system of tracing the contacts of Americans who are infected with the virus and quarantining vulnerable groups and people potentially exposed to the virus.

Mr. Roy said in an interview that the plan was motivated in part by research suggesting that prolonged school closures disproportionately hurt nonwhite and low-income children, who are less likely to have access to educational materials at home that allow them to keep up with more affluent peers.

“The last thing we need at a time of rising inequality is to widen that inequality for our children,” Mr. Roy said. “Upper-income parents are the ones most able to improve educational opportunities for their children. Lower-income parents are not.”

But many economists warn that hasty moves to restart the economy will simply increase the risks for vulnerable workers without generating significant growth. There is widespread concern that consumers will not travel and spend as freely as they had before the pandemic until therapeutic treatments or a vaccine are developed or testing has ramped up to a degree that gives people confidence that they can resume normal activities without risking infection and death.

“If restrictions on social distancing are lifted without adequate supports — testing, tracking and protective gear — in place, many people will choose to stay home if their circumstances will allow them to,” said Heather Boushey, the president of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a liberal think tank focused on inequality. “In other words, we will see small-business, low-wage and hourly workers who are most desperate to get back to work as the first to go back, putting themselves and their families in danger.”

Workers who have no choice but to report for duty say they are already confronting those choices every day. Ms. Watson, the Wendy’s worker, said she feared potentially bringing the virus home to her 11-year-old son, Xzaibayan.

Kim Thomas, a home health aide in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area, has begun delivering groceries for an online service to make up for hours she lost because of the outbreak.

In the grocery stores where she shops, Ms. Thomas said in a phone interview, “not everyone is practicing safe distancing. They’re not.”

She said she was concerned for her livelihood in an area that depended heavily on tourism to keep its economy running. But she also feared for her health.

“I’m definitely worried about catching Covid-19,” Ms. Thomas said. “I worry about it every day.”

Ben Casselman contributed reporting.

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A Year After a #MeToo Reckoning, Economists Still Grapple With It

SAN DIEGO — When the nation’s economists gathered here over the weekend, the event looked different than in past years. There was a woman holding “office hours” to help victims of sexual harassment and abuse. Job interviews were no longer conducted in hotel rooms, where female candidates had long felt uncomfortable. There was a long list of panel discussions on racism and sexism in the profession.

There were even, some attendees noted with delight, long lines for the women’s restroom.

Many economists celebrated those developments as a sign of progress after a year of revelations — in front-page stories and surveys of the group’s members — about sexism, racism and harassment in the discipline.

But others stressed the need for even more aggressive action to address those issues, particularly racial discrimination. And the group’s leaders said they would need years of sustained effort to begin to erode the structural barriers that have held back women and nonwhite men in the field.

“There’s certainly a problem — we identified that problem,” said Ben S. Bernanke, the former Federal Reserve chair, whose one-year term as president of the group, the American Economic Association, ended Sunday. “Progress in terms of outcomes, it’s too soon to say, obviously. Progress in terms of process I think has been tremendous.”

In an interview, Mr. Bernanke and the new president, Janet L. Yellen, his successor as Fed chair, said the association would soon finalize procedures for investigating violations of its code of conduct and for punishing violators. One formal complaint has already been filed, they said.

Mr. Bernanke said further steps might be needed to diversify the profession’s power structures, still dominated by white men (although a majority of the association’s executive committee, with Ms. Yellen’s ascension, is female). Additional efforts could include grading university economics departments on their diversity efforts, and insuring racial and gender diversity in top positions at leading journals, which can make or break economists’ careers by choosing to publish or reject their research.

Economics is grappling with these issues as other academic disciplines are facing their own reckonings. The National Academy of Sciences in 2018 published a report finding widespread sexual harassment in science, engineering and medicine. Prominent scholars in political science, government, law and other fields have been accused of sexual harassment. But gender and racial gaps in economics are wider — and have been more stubborn — than in many other fields.

The lack of diversity in economics, particularly in the top ranks, is nothing new. But the discipline has been forced to confront its problems by a series of incidents in recent years. In 2017, an economics student, Alice Wu, published a paper documenting discrimination, harassment and bullying on a popular industry online forum. The following year, Roland G. Fryer Jr., a star economist at Harvard, was accused of harassing and bullying women at his university-affiliated research lab. (Harvard suspended Mr. Fryer last year.)

At the economics association’s meeting last year — less than a month after The New York Times published details of the claims against Mr. Fryer — some of the field’s most prominent women shared searing stories of harassment and discrimination. And in March, the association published the results of a survey finding that female and minority economists faced rampant bias, harassment and even outright sexual assault.

The association has taken a number of steps in response to those revelations. It adopted a new code of conduct, and changed its bylaws to allow sanctions against members who violate it. It hired an ombudsperson to hear complaints, and a new general counsel who is empowered to investigate charges of misconduct. It has created task forces charged with addressing the profession’s problems and with recruiting more women and people of color, and a permanent committee on issues facing gay, lesbian and transgender economists.

“What I’ve heard, over and over again, is — this is the moment, we need to take advantage of it,” said M.V. Lee Badgett, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who is co-chair of the association’s new Committee on the Status of LGBTQ+ Individuals in the Economics Profession.

Some economists, particularly younger ones, are calling for a more radical rethinking of the discipline’s structure. Academic economics remains dominated by researchers who attended and work at a handful of elite institutions. Relatively few economists, particularly in top programs, come from working-class backgrounds or have parents who did not attend college.

“Diversity means not bringing people with darker skin who use exactly the same models and ask exactly the same questions and reach the same conclusions,” said Cecilia Conrad, an economist who is now an executive at the MacArthur Foundation. “Embracing diversity means opening up to the kinds of new questions and new ways of seeing the world that will eventually improve economic science.”

Ms. Conrad, who is black, spoke on a panel titled “How Can Economics Solve Its Race Problem?” Discussion of race and racism was more prominent on this year’s agenda, after organizers were criticized last year for neglecting those issues.

“Last year was the gender conference, this year is the race conference,” said Lisa D. Cook, an economist at Michigan State University who is one of the field’s most prominent black women. Gender and race, she added, go hand in hand — the association’s survey last year found that more black women report experiencing discrimination than any other group.

Ms. Cook is also one of four women newly elected to the executive committee. Economists, including many of the young activists, said the new leadership had made a difference, and credited Mr. Bernanke and Ms. Yellen with pushing the typically slow-moving association to become more aggressive.

There are also signs of a broader cultural shift. Many attendees said they had grown more comfortable raising questions about diversity in their departments, for example, and a growing list of schools have adopted rules meant to improve the tone of economics seminars, which some have described as toxic.

“The problem is not solved, absolutely not,” said Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman, a Harvard research fellow who as an undergraduate was a co-founder of the Sadie Collective, a group aiming to bring more black women into economics. “But we are seeing that the field itself is at a very high level taking measures to talk about diversity and inclusion in a very broad way.”

Research presented at the conference showed that decisions on promotion, invitations to present research and other milestones on the road to success still skewed disproportionately white and male.

An exhaustive study of economics seminars, presented by Alicia Sasser Modestino of Northeastern University on behalf of several co-authors, found that female economists face far more questions from men in the audience during their presentations than male economists do. “In general,” Ms. Modestino told a largely packed room for a session on gender in economics, “women are more likely to receive questions that are not fair.”

While economists have become more willing to talk about general issues of discrimination, many remain reluctant to go public with more specific allegations. Leto Copeley, a lawyer who has been made the association’s ombudsperson, said people had come to her with cases of severe abuse but were fearful of speaking out publicly.

Ms. Yellen said that “it’s not been a deluge of people coming forward” with allegations. “There is a concern,” she said. “In academia, you are really talking about power relationships, when women are being harassed by men who are important for their careers.”

At several points over the weekend, there were reminders that economists have pushed for greater diversity in the past with limited results. In the Friday session on race, panelists talked of a “golden age” in the late 1970s and early ’80s when top departments had a substantial number of black graduate students. But that moment quickly passed.

At a lunch on Saturday, members of the National Economic Association celebrated the group’s 50th anniversary. The organization was founded as the Caucus of Black Economists in December 1969 at an impromptu gathering in the midst of the profession-wide convention at a New York hotel. Several founders spoke at the lunch, praising the gains that black economists have won but lamenting that far more were needed.

One founder, Bernard E. Anderson, an emeritus professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, said he was encouraged by the recent diversity focus by the American Economic Association and its leaders. He recalled that when his group first met at that New York hotel in 1969, association leaders summoned city police officers.

“They thought we were a bunch of radicals who wanted to disrupt the convention,” Mr. Anderson said, “when all we wanted to be was economists.”