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COVID-19 and Inclusion Don't Mix

The representation of women and people of color in the workplace is obviously a key element of diversity. And while that representation has grown in recent decades, due to a number of factors, it does not necessarily translate into inclusion. The reason is that many of the jobs held by traditionally underrepresented groups tend to be lower on the organizational hierarchy and often in low-skill positions like the service industry.

Diverse Employees Languishing in Entry-Level Positions

Although it could be argued that some representation in the workplace is better than no representation, the fact remains that the positions held by many women and people of color don’t typically have significant earnings potential or decision-making authority.

They also happen to be those most susceptible to job loss.

The sudden shock to the American economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, a disproportionate impact on women and people of color. This is due to a variety of factors, including the nature of the work itself.

Pandemic Pressures Fueling the Problem

“In the broader workforce, black and Hispanic workers are more likely to work in lower-paid, consumer-facing service jobs that limit their ability to work remotely, according to Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute and the former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor,” writes Bärí A. Williams, in an article for Fast Company.

“As several 2019 McKinsey studies noted, women, black, and brown people tend to predominantly work in service roles, which are quickly being automated. Automation, AI, robotics, and job elimination were already tied, but the pandemic has exacerbated it, with companies finding they can derive the same productivity without the overhead,” Williams says.

Moreover, as companies struggle to make ends meet in the midst of the pandemic and its economic fallout, inclusion and diversity efforts can start to lose the attention and focus they might have in more stable times.

Now is Not the Time to Retreat From Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion efforts have made important gains in recent years. But those gains remain fragile, and shocks like the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic have the potential to wipe them away.

It’s important, even in these difficult times, for business leaders to not lose sight of the long-term benefits of inclusion and diversity when making what seem like essential short-term decisions.

Be inclusive!

Avoiding the "Stuck State"

Organizations and their leaders are well-intentioned, yet many are still languishing in a stuck state. The key is for businesses to understand that leveraging diversity and inclusion to nurture a strong bottom line are long-term goals that require long-term efforts and cannot be solved through short-term initiatives. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Our recent white paper, Overcoming the Stuck State, offers some insights into the steps that need to be taken to get unstuck. These are trying times, but these are not the times to back away from the business imperative of building an inclusive culture. Inclusion matters! Download a free copy of our most recent white paper here.

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Are you tired of workplace diversity training that does not link to business? Are you tired of tactics that don’t drive business results? InclusionINC has strategic consulting, leadership development and inclusion learning solutions and that link inclusion to employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, moving inclusion beyond tactics to a critical business strategy.

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