Inequality concerns are often magnified and compounded during trying times. The last recession had a disproportionate negative impact on underrepresented groups in the legal profession, and there is mounting evidence that this crisis may again lead to inequitable outcomes.
As we work through this challenging period, fundamental values of inclusion and diversity must remain central and top of mind.
In this issue of the Employment Eye on D&I, we highlight how the pandemic could jeopardize diversity efforts and suggest some tips for keeping inclusion top of mind. So, with that, read on and stay committed.
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Inclusion Impact - Covid-19 Crisis
Research indicates that the overall impact of this crisis may have a disproportionately negative impact on underrepresented groups in the workplace. See the below articles that provide further context and background. Leaders should thoughtfully and proactively ensure that diverse professionals within their organizations are effectively supported to prevent long term career-limiting consequences based on this temporary challenge.
This crisis also underscores the importance of having diverse representation in leadership. Having diversity among those responsible for key talent decisions is vital to ensure that all perspectives and impacts are appropriately considered.
During trying times, mentorship and sponsorship are more important than ever. Though most teams are working remotely, there are many ways to connect. Reach out proactively to colleagues and do not wait for your team to come to you.
Organizations will continue to be held accountable for diversity, equity and inclusion post-COVID-19. To maintain progress toward core D&I goals, we must all be extra vigilant to interrupt potential bias in decision-making; confirm equitable allocation of work, skills development and client contact opportunities; and closely monitor the impact of promotions, redundancies, compensation changes, work arrangements and related measures taken during this time.
Keeping Inclusion Top of Mind During Cost-Cutting
- Companies forced to consider layoffs or furloughs should be aware of where they face risks of apparent adverse impact against protected groups and approach these decisions with care. Statistically evaluate whether decision-making creates the appearance of adverse impact for protected groups.
- Many companies may have recently hired disproportionately more women or people of racial or ethnic minorities relative to white men. Prioritizing retention of more experienced employees, may face risk of apparent adverse impact among the race-, ethnic- and gender-diverse employees. Create a diverse team to determine selection criteria.
- Involve employees in deciding what roles need to continue, rather than which people need to be retained, and develop an objective process to match employee skills and capabilities with these roles or functions. This may help to counter accusations of favoritism since the focus is on the role as opposed to the individual.
- Once a decision is made, be as transparent as possible about the decision-making process so that all employees--those who are members of protected groups, those who are let go in the reduction, and those who are keeping their jobs and may feel "survivor guilt"-- understand the non-discriminatory criteria. A thorough communications plan can help to protect the company from accusations of unfair or discriminatory labor practices.
Impact on workplace equality:
- Diversity Still Matters, McKinsey, May 19, 2020
- Impact on Workplace Equality: COVID-19: What Mothers in Your Office Aren't Telling You, Catalyst, April 9, 2020
- Pandemic Could Jeopardize Law Firm Diversity Efforts, Law360, April 6, 2020
- Women And The Frontlines Of COVID-19, Forbes, April 5, 2020
- Coronavirus Layoffs Could Erase Many of Women's Workplace Gains, Catalyst, March 26, 2020
- The Coronavirus Is a Disaster for Feminism: Pandemics affect men and women differently, The Atlantic, March 19, 2020
- How Chief Diversity Officers are steering their Companies through the COVID-19 crisis, Forbes, April 16, 2020
- Coronavirus Is Having an Outsized Impact on Working Moms: The consequences of COVID-19 are already gendered, Medium, March 10, 2020
- How "Neutral" Layoffs Disproportionately Affect Women and Minorities, Harvard Business Review, July 26, 2016
- Unemployment Rising Faster for Women and People of Color, Harvard Business Review, April 20,2020
Mental health impact:
- Parents' stress levels spike as pandemic drags on, Axios, April 19, 2020
- Coronavirus Lockdown Is Taking A Toll On Mental Health, Especially Among Women, Study Finds, Forbes, April 8, 2020
- Homeworking: isolation, anxiety and burnout, Financial Times, April 15, 2010
- Is There a Widening Gender Gap in Coronavirus Stress? Kaiser Family Foundation, April 6, 2020
- Coronavirus: A Look at Gender Differences in Awareness and Actions, Kaiser Family Foundation, March 20, 2020
Overall global impact on equality:
- Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women, United Nations, April 9, 2020
- Why we need women's leadership in the COVID-19 response, World Economic Forum, April 3, 2020
- The coronavirus fallout may be worse for women than men. Here's why, World Economic Forum, March 12, 2020
- Why the Coronavirus Outbreak Could Hit Women Hardest, Time, March 12, 2020
- Coronavirus: Five ways virus upheaval is hitting women in Asia, BBC News, March 8, 2020
Pay equity video chat
Susan Eandi, Paul Evans and Emily Harbison connected to discuss the importance of staying on top of pay equity during the pandemic. Listen here.
Mentoring During COVID-19
Anna Brown and Colin Murray shared with Bloomberg Law about how mentoring during COVID-19 is more critical than ever. Read more here.