Avoid Turning the Economic Recession Into a Diversity Recession

Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

1. Avoid turning the economic recession into a diversity recession

If your organization has been focused on improving workforce diversity (and I hope it has), now is not the time to ignore it. Especially if you need to do layoffs. As I read in Research: U.S. Unemployment Rising Faster for Women and People of Color,

“Companies that remained inclusive during the Great Recession (in terms of diverse workers’ experience and representation in different ranks) did better financially during and after it.”

Alexandra Kalev, an associate sociology professor at Tel Aviv University, recommends a few ways to “avoid turning the economic recession into a diversity recession”:

  • Keep track of your lists and ensure your decisions don’t disproportionately impact members of underrepresented groups.
  • Factor performance ratings into your decision process, versus basing it on tenure or position held.
  • Redeploy talent to areas that need strengthening.
  • Cross-train and upskill workers.
  • Offer early and phased retirement options.
  • Cut pay and hours rather than jobs.

There’s much more about each idea in the article. Read it. Share it. Act on it.

2. Check in with parents of young children

I’m starting to hear about summer camp programs being canceled because of the pandemic. Here in the United States, working parents rely on camps when their children are not in school. Now, many of them are facing months without daycare. Months of trying to keep their children busy and safe while they’re working.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a survey from pay equity software company Syndio found that 14% of women respondents considered quitting their jobs to better manage family responsibilities during this pandemic. 11% of the men who responded said they were considering it.

Check in with the parents on your team. Consider asking them, “What’s one thing the organization or I can do to help you now and through the summer?” And then take action.

3. Offer closed captioning for large virtual meetings

This recommendation comes from author and professor Ruchika Tulshyan, who shared ways to make virtual meetings more inclusive in this Harvard Business Review article. Because attendees may have hearing difficulties, busy households with background noise, or spotty WiFi, closed captioning can help everyone follow the conversation and fully participate.

I love this idea for all-hands meetings and webinars, budget permitting.

Just last week, I attended a webinar by inclusion firm Change Catalyst, and they used remote services to provide both closed captioning and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. It was an outstanding example of an inclusive webinar. You can watch the recording here.

(Change Catalyst used White Coat Captioning and Interpreter-Now for their webinar. Other vendors offer these services remotely as well.)

4. Look out for anti-Semitism (it’s on the rise)

In a recent newsletter, I recommended looking out for xenophobia and anti-Asian racism, which is on the rise because of the pandemic. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is also growing. In Coronavirus Sparks Rise in Anti-Semitic Sentiment, Researchers Say, Wall Street Journal reporter Felicia Schwartz wrote that Tel Aviv University released its annual assessment of global anti-Semitism. The research shows that,

“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it.”

Could these accusations show up in your workplace? In your online communities? Hopefully not, but we all should be aware of this potential bias and look out for it.

5. Prepare to support team members who are grieving

Let’s face it. The deaths from COVID-19 are staggering. If you have an office in one of the world’s hotspots, you may already be supporting team members who have lost a family member or friend. You may be dealing with grief yourself.

Unfortunately, mortality rates will continue to grow. If you’re not yet prepared to support coworkers through the grieving process, now is the time to think about it. For allies, this is especially important. Given the pandemic is disproportionately impacting people of color in the US, our coworkers of color are going to need our support.

In Addressing Grief Inclusively in the Workplace, Eden Connelly Tallarico of diversity firm Collective shared seven ways to support team members through the loss of a loved one. I recommend reading it and bookmarking it.

(Thanks to the folks at Aleria, who included this article in their April 21st newsletter.)

I wish you strength and safety as we all move forward,

— Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of Better Allies

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Everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

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