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Pandemic May Offer Opportunities for Better Workplace Diversity

When companies talk about inclusion and diversity, they often think first about race and gender. Sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability and veteran status also sometimes enter into the conversation. But what about employee background – specifically employment history? In this post, we discuss this additional element of employee diversity – how it may be valuable for employers and how it actually ties in closely to some of the more traditional measures of diversity.

Major Disruption Leads to Job Losses for Many

It’s no secret that the U.S. and the global economies have taken a major hit in the wake of COVID-19. And while the U.S. economy is rebounding steadily as a whole, individual experiences vary widely depending on job role and segment of the economy. In an article for CNN, Anneken Tappe reported on comments made by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in November 2020 at a European Central Bank forum, in which Powell suggested that the economy as we know it (or knew it) may be a thing of the past in a post-COVID world.

Even after the recovery, he says, the economy will be different. So will other aspects of our lives. "The pandemic has accelerated existing trends in the economy and society, including the increasing use of technology, telework and automation, he said. This will have lasting effect on how people live and work," he says.

While this may be good in the long term, in the short-term we are all experiencing rapid and rampant disruption. Unfortunately, the disruption is likely to have a disparate impact on those already in marginalized groups, like women and people of color.

The Pandemic Takes it Toll, But More on Some Than Others

"For example, it's likely that lower-paid workers, as well as those in jobs requiring face-to-face interactions, such as retail or restaurant workers, will shoulder most of the burden of this shift. These groups, heavily skewed towards women and minorities, have already been among those most affected by pandemic layoffs," according to Powell.

If Powell’s predictions are accurate, it’s likely the US will see a glut of unemployed workers whose previous experience was in industries that have fundamentally changed or even disappeared. Many of those workers are likely to be women and people of color.

Disruption Leads to Opportunity

As is often the case, there's opportunity in disruption.

The opportunity pandemic job losses may present for companies around the country is the availability of a huge pool of workers often already more diverse than the general workforce. The challenge is whether they can find ways to embrace the unique skillsets those workers possess for a new job function and effectively supplement those skills with whatever is necessary to succeed in a new industry.

Now is the time to start thinking about how you will build your workforce back up after the pandemic, and how you might proactively take steps to seek out a wider array of diverse candidates.

Be inclusive!

Recommended Reading:


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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