Understanding Woke-Washing

28 August 2021


“A new pejorative term has imprinted itself in the corporate lexicon: “woke-washing “. This now goes beyond just superficial brand upliftment and extends to question the reality of internal diversity and inclusion commitments. Symmetra suggests that Corporations and other employers should take note. Increasingly, shareholders and other stakeholders will not be content to accept lip service or lack of transparency on D&I measurement and progress.

For example, in anticipation of a shareholders meeting scheduled for October 6, Nike shareholders have requested that the company publish a report which measures metrics on promotion, recruitment and retention of protected classes of employees Nike is not amongst the 71% of S&P 100 which releases its statutory EEO-1 report which reflects detailed data on workforce composition. Nike’s internal report is inadequate, say the shareholders. It provides, they assert “…. Insufficient quantitative data for investors to determine the effectiveness of its human capital management program as it relates to workplace diversity.”

In the coming years, at least in developed economies, this demand is likely to become routine and as essential a feature of corporate reporting as audited financial and sustainability metrics. Symmetra, which has premised its D&I programs on sound and reliable metrics, welcomes the move of stakeholders to demand transparency and adequate detail in D&I reporting. It can only augur well for the health of the operating environment for both public and private sectors.  Australia has useful compulsory reporting to WGEA on gender metrics but the moves in the US indicate that a broader perspective is what is becoming considered necessary.