Author: Olivia Parrish,
Published: 15.11.21

Why equality, diversity and inclusion is more important post-COVID

From setting up a home office on the kitchen table to balancing children and work to spending hour after hour on Zoom, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world of work for all of us. However, recent surveys show that this impact has been even more severely felt by women, BAME, disabled and LGBTQ+ colleagues.

As businesses have switched to survival mode, operational functions and employee health has become a priority over equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) initiatives. This is despite the fact that affected groups have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

So as businesses start to overcome the initial impact of COVID, how do they start to reinstate and improve their ED&I initiatives?

How did COVID-19 impact minorities?

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on minority colleagues. For BAME employees, COVID-19 proved a greater risk to their health. This, in part, was due to the fact that these workers are more likely to be working in frontline jobs, with 14% of doctors being from an Indian background.

In addition, the pandemic led to a major drop in the earnings of BAME employees, with a 14.2% average earning loss compared to the 5.1% drop for white workers. Similarly, the suspension of gender pay gap reporting in the 2019/20 year means we have no real visibility on the impact of the pandemic on women’s earnings, although it’s estimated that this stands at $800 billion globally.

Minority groups’ mental health has also fallen victim to the pandemic, with 75% of mothers experiencing challenges compared to 69% of fathers. Disabled colleagues also suffered, with 46% reporting concerns for their mental welfare compared to 29% of non-disabled employees.

This sat alongside more general health concerns, with 35% of disabled people saying that they were worried about the impact on their wellbeing in contrast to 12% of the non-disabled. The unique health concerns of the LGBTQ+ community were also a concern, especially for those living with HIV and AIDS who were disproportionately affected.

Alongside these impacts, many businesses put their ED&I initiatives on hold to focus on getting through the crisis. Minority communities were also more likely to be put on furlough or lose their job altogetherduring the pandemic. In short, COVID-19 may have  stopped or even reversed progress towards total workplace equality.

How are businesses responding?

As businesses start to emerge from the initial crisis, they’re working hard to make up for lost progress in their ED&I initiatives. Here are some of the brands that are redoubling their commitments to minority colleagues.

Mastercard

Mastercard has long been committed to achieving gender equality, both inside and outside the organisation. Before the pandemic, the financial company was one of the few world-leading businesses to make real progress towards pay equity. Now, women employees earn $1.00 for every $1.00 men employees earn.

Plus, despite the pandemic, Mastercard continued with its plans to enhance parental leave, provide women’s mentorship and personal development programmes to make sure their female employees don’t get left behind as a result of the crisis.

Sky

Both in front and behind the camera, Sky has committed to fighting for social equality. In response to both the pandemic and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Unity Programme was established in June 2020 to amplify the voice of the black community internally.

Colleagues also established a Diversity Action Group in August 2020 to hold Sky accountable for its diversity and inclusion commitments. This includes ensuring that 20% of its UK and Irish workforce will come from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background by 2025.

Ikea

Having earned 100% in the HRC Corporate Equality Index for six years in a row, Ikea’s commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community is clear. As well as marking International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2021 with their Progress Flag, the last year has seen Ikea launch a Transgender Inclusion Toolkit for managers and a global LGBT+ inclusion plan.

The homeware giant has also partnered with Workplace Pride Foundation and Stonewall, become members of the Open for Business inclusion initiative and made a commitment to increasing ethnic, racial and national diversity at all levels of leadership in 30 countries by 2024.

Microsoft

Within its 2021 Diversity and Inclusion Report, Microsoft was completely transparent about the impact of the pandemic on its progress towards employee equality. Despite this, the organisation made significant progress in representation, with growth in core business groups and across all levels of leadership.

Plus, it announced that, as of June 2021, 96% of employees had completed D&I learning courses on allyship, covering, privilege and unconscious bias in the workplace.

McDonald’s

The aftermath of COVID has seen McDonald’s link its commitment to diversity and inclusion directly to business performance. In September 2020, the fast-food chain introduced an Inclusion Index into their staff pulse survey to ensure continuous progress.

It also announced that 15% of its executives’ bonuses will be tied to meeting ED&I targets, ensuring that there will be no leadership complacency when it comes to diversity and equality.

How to promote ED&I in your business

The link between increased diversity and better business performance has long been proven, which means that promoting ED&I should be a key part of your COVID recovery strategy. So whether you’re looking to restart your pre-pandemic initiatives or to make a fresh start, ensure you focus on promoting leadership, transparency and dialogue to guarantee success.

Leadership:

As with any internal initiative, having leaders at all levels of the business who promote and demonstrate inclusive behaviours is key to making real progress. Engaging your leaders in these initiatives, whether it’s through training or bonus structures, is just as important as including representatives from minority communities at all levels of the business.

Transparency:

Whether you use reports, monthly updates or internal communications campaigns, being transparent about the changes you’re making and why will keep inclusion front of mind for all your colleagues. It also holds your organisation and team accountable for any progress that’s made and ensures that everyone feels free to raise questions and concerns, whatever their background or identity.

Dialogue:

Including colleagues within any diversity and inclusion conversation is central to ED&I progress. Action groups, community councils and internal representatives are all ways you can ensure the amplification and inclusion of minority voices in important business conversations as part of an open, honest dialogue.

By maintaining this two-way conversation, giving leaders the tools they need and committing to transparency, you can kickstart your ED&I initiatives post-COVID and ensure that your business is truly diverse and inclusive, both now and in the future.

For some friendly expert advice on how to make real progress in diversity and inclusion post-COVID, get in touch with our experienced team by emailing hello@leappeoplesolutions.com or calling 0800 048 7742.

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