Private Sector

With its emerging work in the private sector, IARA envisions the establishment of standardized accountability practices and measures for corporate racial equity efforts.

This work seeks to support landscape actors in developing and using metrics to measure the impact of efforts towards equity goals, in response to perspectives of people of color impacted on the ground, and by using public disclosure of data as means for public accountability.

What would an ecosystem of racial justice investments look like?

A healthy, multifaceted ecosystem of racial justice-focused investments would be rooted in historical knowledge, robust racial equity metrics, and antiracist accountability standards. Current organizational diversity initiatives often receive praise based on their aspirational claims, whereas a healthy ecosystem would value their effectiveness. This would best be measured by historical reckoning, racial equity benchmarking, and structural analysis of the organization’s impact on racial justice in society.

Why is antiracist research needed in the private sector?

The field of antiracist policy and practice research is only just beginning. Analysis of racial disparities in all sectors are far more abundant than the analysis of how to dismantle or transform the societal systems, policies, and practices that produce these disparities. Further, professional standards, managerial capacity, and leadership have been hindered by the absence of standardized racial equity measures and accountability practices like those developed for environmental or governance disclosure within robust Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) models.

How will IARA’s antiracist research contribute to real change?

Accountability frameworks and benchmarks give organizations a clear road map to success and allow stakeholders to hold them to those standards. In order to develop these critical tools, IARA’s researchers will investigate key questions such as:

— What policies, processes, reporting and accountability frameworks are currently shaping racial equity within the corporate sector?

— How, where, and with what efficacy is the ‘spending’ associated with racial equity efforts reported and measured?

— How, where, and over what time period is internally focused equity being tracked and analyzed on an aggregate basis?

— Who is at work behind the scenes and what resources are available to encourage corporate sector actors towards better antiracism practices and accountability?

Subscribe to IARA’s newsletter for updates as this project develops.

Meet the researcher

Kerri Ratcliffe

Research Fellow
Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project

IARA resources on the private sector

Why words aren’t enough from companies claiming to support Black Lives Matter

JULY 7, 2020

Solidarity statements allow companies to invest in good will without investing in substantive change — a practice also known as diversity washing, or reputational laundering. What organization wants to be accused of being pro-racist or complacently silent?

Written by IARA Director Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad and IARA Research Project Director Erica Licht

Preserving Seats at the Table: White-Dominated Boards

MARCH 18, 2022

This special episode of Untying Knots shares a discussion from the 2021 Truth and Transformation Conference. This panel, titled “Preserving Seats at the Table,” addressed the power of boards to steer equitable change for their companies, and what is at stake if they don’t. The discussion applied a power analysis to organizational hierarchy and power, by taking a closer look at the positions white leaders occupy, and their collusion with resistance to change.

Hosted by IARA Research Project Director Erica Licht and Nikhil Raghuveera

Money Left on the Table: The Economic Argument for Diversity

OCTOBER 15, 2021

From the 2021 Truth and Transformation Conference, the panel “Money Left on the Table” addressed the economic argument for diversity and discussed two central questions: Does this argument even make sense? And why hasn’t everyone already won? Key leaders from various organizational vantage points weighed in and provided insight on how they witness and address resistance to antiracist change.  

Related RRAPP summaries on the private sector

The Influence of Board Diversity, Board Diversity Policies and Practices, and Board Inclusion Behaviors on Nonprofit Governance Practice


Published in the Journal of Business Ethics, this study demonstrates that racial, ethnic, gender, and age diversity on a nonprofit’s board affects its governance performance. The authors conclude that organizational leaders must draw on research related to governance effectiveness to materially improve their governing board’s performance. This study also specifically indicates that efforts to enhance board diversity must be paired with meaningful diversity policies and practices and inclusive behaviors to maximize performance improvements. 

Best Practices or Best Guesses? Assessing the Efficacy of Corporate Affirmative Action and Diversity Policies


Over the past several decades, there has been an increase in efforts to diversify the American corporate workforce. In this report published in the American Sociological Review, researchers conducted a longitudinal survey of diversity practices in 708 private-sector businesses. The authors conclude that the most effective way to increase the share of white women, Black women, and Black men in management is to implement organizational responsibility for diversity through affirmative action plans, diversity committees, and diversity positions.

Recent News