McDonald's has set a goal of having an equal number of men and women in leadership roles by 2030 as it looks to improve diversity at the company.

The fast-food chain also said it would work to boost minority representation in the firm's senior US ranks from 29% to 35% over the next four years.

Executive pay will be tied to meeting the targets.

The effort follows claims of racial discrimination from black franchisees and executives in the US.

Workers have also accused the firm of fostering "systemic sexual harassment" at its restaurants.

McDonald's has disputed the allegations. But in July, amid widespread Black Lives Matter protests in the US, the firm announced a new diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative.

In November, the firm brought on a new person to lead the implementation of the effort.

Activists protest in front of a McDonalds in Los Angeles, California, on July 20, 2020 during a Strike For Black Lives rally.IMAGE COPYRIGHT

"We recognize these issues weigh heavily on our people and have heard - loud and clear - that diversity, equity, and inclusion are priorities for our entire team, from our crews to our senior leaders," McDonald's chief executive Chris Kempczinski wrote in a letter to staff.

"We're serious about holding ourselves and our leaders accountable to these foundational commitments."

As part of its efforts, McDonald's released demographic data of its US workforce for the first time.

The 2018 figures show the firm had more black, Hispanic, and Asian senior managers than the industry overall. Women and minorities also accounted for a larger share of service workers than the industry average.

However, the share of black and Hispanic first- and mid-level managers lagged.

The firm said it would determine executive bonuses based on a combination of sales and profit growth, with meeting diversity goals weighted at 15%.

Jamelia Fairley, a McDonald's worker at a corporate-owned store in the Orlando, Florida area, said the firm had long been "complacent" on these issues.

"While workers have rung the alarm, from filing complaints and lawsuits to going on strike, McDonald's has largely ignored its racial discrimination problem from the C-suite to the frontlines," said Ms. Fairley, a leader in the Fight for $15 and a Union, an activist campaign that has pressured McDonald's over racial discrimination and sexual harassment, among other issues.

"This isn't a problem that can be solved by paying wealthy executives even more to hire a handful of new senior staff," she added.

"If McDonald's really wants to address racial and gender inequality, it needs to start by listening to the black and brown cooks and cashiers who have been speaking out about workplace discrimination and pay for years."

Even as the U.S. economy expands, the post-pandemic outlook for low-wage workers has become significantly worse than it was before the pandemic. The effect is so large that it’s a looming problem not just for those workers, but also for the larger society and the economy. At the same time, high-wage workers face an even brighter future than they did pre-pandemic.

Those findings are among the most significant in the McKinsey Global Institute’s eye-opening new report, The Future of Work After COVID-19, released today. It updates MGI’s pre-pandemic assessment of labor market changes over the rest of the decade in the U.S., China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Spain, and the U.K.—most of which can expect changes broadly similar to those in the United States.

The stakes are high. “If we don't solve the retraining problem, we're likely to see people dropping out of the labor force, with lower overall participation, rising inequality, and lots of negative consequences,” says Susan Lund, a McKinsey partner, and Ph.D. economist who co-led the research.

The big underlying factor is the pandemic’s powerful acceleration of three preexisting trends:

  • The expansion of remote work, which “may reduce demand for mass transit, restaurants, and retail in urban centers,” the report says.
  • The growth of e-commerce and the “delivery economy,” “grew two to five times faster in 2020 than before the pandemic.” It’s disrupting jobs in travel and leisure as well as in restaurants and retail.
  • Employers’ increasing use of automation and A.I. In factories, warehouses, stores, offices, and elsewhere, robots and process automation have helped companies manage through the pandemic.

All those trends were already eliminating more low-wage jobs than high-wage jobs, and the pandemic has turbocharged the effect. For example, before the pandemic, MGI’s scenario envisaged 37 million U.S. workers displaced by automation in this decade; the new post-pandemic scenario foresees 45 million displaced. The total number of jobs should increase, but “nearly all net job growth over the next decade is projected to be in high-wage occupations,” the report finds.

You could see that shift as a great opportunity, but it’s also a substantial challenge. As the report says, “Transitions from low- to high-wage occupations have historically been rare.” The promising potential is that those transitions “could offer better career paths and upward mobility.” For example, a cashier could move into the fast-growing health care sector initially as an orderly, then move up to being a nursing assistant, then be a licensed vocational nurse—three gradual steps, each requiring training, that would cumulatively more than double the cashier’s pay.

The great challenge for this decade will be upskilling on an unprecedented scale. “There are two parts to the solution of getting low-wage people onto upwardly mobile career paths,” says Lund. “One is that we need more short-term training programs. We started with coding boot camps to learn to program, but there are many similar ones that will, for instance, teach in 12 weeks the basic skills you need to be a certified nurse assistant. The second part is helping people figure out a series of job moves they can make. Companies are using A.I. to help people assess their intrinsic skills and what sequence of job moves they could make to get into higher-paying, more stable work.”

Employers will take on much of the burden. They know best which skills they need. Dozens of companies—Walmart, IBM, Bosch, BarclaysMerckNike, and many others—have expanded their training programs, started apprenticeship programs or partnered with schools to train large numbers of current or potential employees.

Lund sees the trend’s upside. “If we can navigate this, it’s good,” she says. “We’ll have people earning higher wages, being more productive, and it will boost the economy.” And she believes it’s entirely doable: “The pandemic certainly showed lots of companies that they were able to react and adopt new ways of doing things much faster than anyone thought. It shows that we can adapt really quickly and successfully when we need to and want to.”