The diversity dilemma of COVID-19: it’s time to stick to core values say Colt

With businesses battling the immediate challenges of COVID-19 will the diversity agenda be pushed back or accelerated?

DiversityQ asked five leading workplace practitioners how the current health crisis would impact the longer-term objectives of a more inclusive and diverse workplace. Here, Louisa Gregory, Colt’s VP of Inclusion and Diversity, shares her thoughts.  

Has COVID -19 set the diversity and inclusion agenda back decades?

The word “unprecedented” has been used a lot in the last month or so to describe the global situation we find ourselves in, which could perhaps even be an understatement. In many ways, COVID-19 has forced a sharpened focus on what it means to be inclusive, and those organisations that have already embedded a culture of inclusiveness won’t reduce their agenda. But this situation will definitely force some to re-think how we engage employees.

Some examples of this as many of us shift to working remotely are; managers are having to actively think about how they engage with their teams when they’re not in the office and as well as helping them navigate the challenges of home and carer’s responsibilities alongside work.

I hope that there will be a much greater respect and appreciation from employers and the broader community about the challenges that various minorities can face regarding work/life integration. And, therefore much greater effort in the future put into more flexible ways of working to accommodate a more diverse slate of talent in the workforce.

Will minorities struggle to get jobs as recruiters rush to fill vacancies with easy hires?  

The best companies will stick to their values and continue to hire for the needs of their organisation. Many individuals and organisations alike are discovering how work can get done efficiently and more effectively via remote working and for many, this may open up conversations about how work gets done in the future.

By removing the barriers of being in an office, employers may find themselves able to tap into more diverse talent pools that create opportunities for those currently under-represented in the workforce. For example, people with disabilities may have struggled to have accommodations made for them. However, the current working from home situation has highlighted that there is much that can be done outside of the traditional office space. Of course, if this situation progresses into a recession, then we know minorities will be adversely affected. But again, this means that companies need to be hyper-vigilant to ensure all the work and investment made to further D&I programs doesn’t fall by the wayside.

Who will be impacted the most by COVID-19 in the diversity and inclusion sector?  

There is no doubt there are challenges for everyone, as we all are currently adjusting to today’s new normal. Parents are struggling with balancing work and carer responsibilities; some are dealing with family members who are ill with COVID-19, while many others are also battling worry, fear and anxiety for vulnerable friends and family members. This current situation may, in fact, help to create a much greater awareness of the risks and impacts of isolation and exclusion, therefore forcing a positive change in the future.

Do you think COVID19 will impact opportunities for minorities in terms of employment and career growth?  

Accessing meaningful employment and career growth for some minorities has been challenging for a while, regardless of COVID-19. Where this current health crisis could force change is in broader thinking about how we engage a more diverse talent pool to make organisations more robust.

Organisations everywhere are starting to discover that work can still get done without offices and a typical nine to five mentality. This could lead to CFO’s starting to ask the question about how much office real estate is actually needed in the future. And, possibly, it will also make hiring managers start to think about is there another way this role can be done; whether that be remotely or even part-time. By shifting the notion of work entirely, hopefully, organisations will be able to refocus, and this could, in fact, create more significant opportunities for minorities.

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