As we approach the two-year mark of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have had substantial time to observe the lasting impact this disease has left. Before the pandemic, the country was in the middle of a bit of a great social reckoning. We were all a part of the growing, urgent, national conversation about racial trauma, gender inequality, LGBT discrimination, and the questions of how to correct it all.
Rounding year two, we’re faced with the sobering reality that as the majority of the world moved inside and online working remotely, these same disparities transferred, with minorities being the most significantly impacted. What the pandemic did, aside from raising a magnifying glass to societal inequities, was amplify them.
McKinsey & Company conducted a survey during the pandemic evaluating the experiences of diverse/minorities and found disheartening results. In the question of “Likelihood of diverse respondent citing a ‘significant challenge during the Covid-19 crisis vs nondiverse respondents”, the diverse respondent all reported a 1x difference in every category, but there were significant (1.5x) differences in the categories of mental health, household responsibilities, connectivity and belonging, and fair performance evaluation. These amplified disparities demonstrate the shadows cast on their present and the bleakness in the future.
While many employees were able to work from home, the majority of the people working food and service industry jobs, transportation, shipping, and warehouse jobs – many of which were deemed essential – were people of color and women. So, as we transitioned to remote work to stop the spread, promote safety, and keep employees safe, there were large populations in the direct line of danger, with the majority being people of color. This increased risk significantly contributed to the disparities in Covid infections and deaths, with black and brown communities reporting higher infection rates, deaths, and less access to medical services.
Women have been impacted by increased stress surrounding work, home life, and child care. When the pandemic hit, women felt it directly. Children were forced home for distance learning, and women ended up bearing most of the weight of balancing younger children ( under five years old), school-aged children with the mothers playing the role of teacher and monitor, and assuming the majority of household duties. Because of this, almost 2 million women have left the workforce and haven’t returned.
To remedy these issues, we have to make a concerted effort – we must be intentional. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that flexibility and adaptability are key. Any efforts made by companies to increase their diversity and inclusion must continue and not fall by the wayside because doing so will only exacerbate the current issues. With genuine care, consideration, and concern, we can develop the strategies necessary to ensure continued progress.
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