Nearly four out of 10 U.S workers believe a diverse workforce is "very important", yet most still work for white, male managers and around a fifth claim to know someone who has been denied a job, pay raise because or promotion because of their race or gender.
A survey by recruitment company Hudson Highland has found a clear gap between employers' words and actions when it comes to diversity.
A total of 19 per cent of the 4,825 workers polled said they knew someone who believed they had been discriminated against because of their race, rising to 22 per cent for gender.
The gap between rhetoric and reality was even more pronounced for African-American workers, with nearly half (46 per cent) agreeing with the same statement.
Just as worryingly, more than three-quarters of the workers polled said they reported to a Caucasian boss, with just a third saying their boss was a woman, indicating that the top echelons of corporate American are still very much male and white.
Most employees agreed that having a diverse workforce was either "very important" (39 per cent) or "somewhat important" (31 per cent).
Among African-American employees "very important" rose to nearly two thirds and more than half for Hispanics.
Yet, at the same time, fewer than half of employees felt there was racial, ethnic and gender diversity on their company's own executive team. Under half were employed by an organisation with a formal diversity initiative, leaving 53 per cent without one or unsure if their employer had one.
Even where diversity programmes were in place, workers were unsure how much of an impact they had, with those believing they helped the advancement of women and ethnic minorities, those that disagreed and those unsure split equally into thirds.
"Despite the clear need for more diversity in the workplace, particularly in supervisory and leadership roles, some employers continue to struggle with implementing diversity programs and creating an inclusive environment that embraces all workers regardless of race, gender, age, sexual preference or ethnicity," said Jessica Priego Lopez, director, diversity & inclusion practice at Hudson North America.
"The global forces affecting businesses make diversity of talent and diversity of thought an absolute necessity and, very soon, companies will have a hard time remaining competitive if they do not succeed in recruiting, retaining and developing workers from diverse backgrounds," she added.
The survey also found that government employees were among the most likely to have a female boss and employees of larger companies (with more than 500 employees) were more likely to report that their organisation had a formal diversity initiative and diverse executive team.