While the pandemic poses an additional problem of inclusion, diversity strengthens companies in times of crisis. We show implications for successful diversity management
Author: House of Eden
In the past, and even more so in the recent past, inclusion and diversity have become buzzwords for social change. In addition to social movements, more and more companies and brands are currently showing a willingness to react and are promoting cultural, ethnic and gender diversity through campaigns.
While this commitment drives positive change, it simultaneously reinforces the visibility of existing, ongoing problems of inclusion. And thus also the need for more differentiated social discourse. Facts instead of outdated stereotypes. Coexistence instead of static pigeonholing.
Inclusion & diversity demand acceptance for everyone
Diversity has many facets. Whether female, male, transgender or non-binary. It is about one person - with or without disabilities, racially & ethically diverse. And it also doesn't matter what age group or religion the individual belongs to. The main thing: Inclusion means that all members of society can live self-determined and together.
It is important that an individual does not have to adapt to existing, prevailing structures. Rather, the aim is to create structures that enable everyone to be a valuable part of society, to participate on an equal footing and to feel that they belong. Be it in the family environment, at school, on the job market or in general social events. Inclusion demands comprehensive acceptance for an unlimited variety of life plans and forms. This goes hand in hand with equal rights and equal opportunities.
The diversity spectrum is broad and indefinable. No wonder - after all, it is about enabling every individual to have unconditional self-determination. In the social debate, however, three groups can currently be identified that are significantly shaping the discourse as well as proactively driving it forward. Since all groups ultimately strive for the same goal of inclusion, they can be viewed representatively in order to derive generally valid implications.
Liberty, equality, fraternity - After the promise of the French Revolution did not come true for women, the organization of the women's movement began around 1800. However, although women have achieved much since then and gender equality, the reassessment of traditional role models and social injustice - at least in the Western world - have largely been eliminated, inequalities still exist.
In addition to gender-based quotas, it is so important to create inclusive structures for women on political, administrative as well as economic dimensions. For brands & businesses' diversity management, this means integrating positive, diversity-promoting measures. Future-oriented key points: More women in management positions, the compatibility of family and career, and flexible as well as mobile working time models.
Racially & ethically Diverse
Racially & ethically diverse people have to struggle with social, systematic and racist inequality. These are particularly visible through racially-motivated discrimination risks in the education system and on the labor market. With inevitable consequences: Marginalization, limited equality, unequal access to employment, adequate housing as well as social services and lack of social mobility.
To minimize these impacts, inclusion strategies need to be built into the political agenda, curriculum and corporate DNA of companies. The mission here: A focus on competence instead of cultural orientation. Qualification instead of origin. Equality instead of hierarchy.
LGBT + community
LGBT + stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and also intersexual and asexual individuals. While the community is increasingly mobilizing and advocating a self-confident approach to sexual identity, here too there is often a lack of legal, cultural and organizational structures through which the LGBT + community can feel comfortable in its social and professional environment.
This is also shown by the international study "Out @ Work Barometer - The Paradox of LGBT + Talent"of the Boston Consulting Group. Only 37% of the LGBT+ community disclose their sexual orientation to their coworkers, while 42% said they would not consider doing so to their supervisor. One reason for this is that 22% assume that publicly disclosing their sexuality could pose a career risk.
Study: The pandemic's gender effect
In addition to the social consequences and challenges posed by COVID-19, the pandemic now provides additional reason to address inclusion in the workplace. Women are said to be disproportionately affected by the impact of the Corona crisis. Much more so, People of Color. That's according to a study recently published in McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey & Company's flagship business publication. The study identifies 3 key facts:
- Women give up their careers because of the crisis
- Unequal burden on women and men in the household
- Excessive burden on women of color
1. Women give up careers - especially mothers
As a result of the pandemic, up to 2 million women, especially mothers with young children, are considering quitting or at least partially withdrawing from the workforce. While there are 10% of both men and women surveyed without children, there are 10% more women (23%) than men (13%) who have children under the age of 10.
Source & Copyright by McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey & Company
2. Unequal burden on women and men in the household
The reason for this difference in willingness to quit: mothers continue to carry more of the load at home than fathers. In terms of time spent on household tasks among dual-career couples, it can be seen that 15% of mothers record more than 5 additional hours per day since the outbreak of the pandemic. For fathers, the figure is only 7%.
Source & Copyright by McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey & Company
3. Excessive burden on women of color
While 2020 has generally been a difficult year for People of Color, women have been disproportionately affected. A woman of Color is 3 times more likely to report the death of a loved one in recent months than a non-Black woman.
Early identification of factors against employee exit
Companies can identify indicators that predict career withdrawal or exit. The following predictive factors are particularly determining:
- Lack of flexibility at work
- The demand to be available 24/7
- Home office & (child) care problems
- Fear of negative assessment due to double burden of (child) care
- Fear of articulating these care problems (in front of employees as well as employers)
Inclusion Implications for Businesses
According to McKinsey, companies can take various measures to reduce the impact of the corona crisis on inclusion:
- Realistic work goals: To prevent burnout and anxiety, adjust performance goals in the pandemic and reflect what is truly achievable for employees
- Sustainable workload: Establish a sustainable realistic work pace to help mothers, high-ranking women and all employees who may be affected by burnout to overcome the crisis
- Trainings, seminars & discussions: Training and coming together for discussion as well as sharing helps to educate employees, encourages them to work as a unit and teaches them to advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace
- Speak-up culture: Leaders should practice a speak-up culture to counter prejudices that the pandemic may have exacerbated.
- Flexible working models: Taking the new living conditions of the pandemic into account, the creation of new norms and working models to facilitate the drawing of boundaries between private life and work and to encourage productivity as well as mental and physical health is also important
Inclusion and crises
The negative inclusion effect of the pandemic is not uncommon. In general, the economic uncertainties associated with crises, as well as economic pressures, often lead to the postponement of HR initiatives. For example, after the 2008 global economic crisis, the percentage of ethnic minorities in management in the U.S. dropped by 11%, and the percentage of women dropped by 4%. While the issue is so not a new one, COVID-19 could, however, present an even greater challenge.
Social distancing, travel restrictions, and unlimited ambiguity intensify anxiety as well as alienation. Moreover, the burden of the pandemic is unevenly distributed across countries. As a result, ethically and racially diverse people face higher rates of infection and mortality in their immediate or extended communities. And women are more affected by the very nature of dealing with the crisis through more caregiving as well as household responsibilities.
Inclusion & diversity as a future model
Even if these factors are perceived as an additional challenge in crisis situations in the short term, they promise long-term, sustainable success. Indeed, while the S&P 500 Index fell by 35% during the financial crisis, the shares of inclusive companies rose simultaneously by 14%. In other words: brands & businesses with heterogeneous workplaces seem to be less affected by crises. Thus, inclusive companies are considered to be more innovative, creative and agile, since a broader cross-section of society is represented and can thus be addressed.
It is therefore important at present not to view diversity management as a separate initiative. Rather, it must be integrated into every activity as well as decision made by companies. Ultimately, diversity and inclusion only mean positive things. Dynamism, creativity, well-being, success and self-expression. And it's important to talk about it. However, not enough. The inclusion debate must go beyond media interest, must not be a marketing stunt or "trendy." Rather, it needs to be a given, which is why the conversation needs to be continued. Until just about everyone understands that inclusion & diversity are a recipe for success. For every individual, for society and brands and businesses.