In times of crisis, economic considerations and shareholder value can tend to overshadow the movement toward diversity and equitable inclusion. Certainly, progress toward gender parity was already at a standstill in the United States before the disruptions of Covid-19 and the disparate job loss of women and minority women.1 Data compiled in 2019 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in its Global Gender Gap Report 2020, indicates that the country has so far closed 72.4% of its gender gap in 2019, a similar overall score to the previous year – and dropped two positions in the WEF’s global ranking, becoming 53rd on the list. (For reference, the U.S. scored 23rd in 2006.)2
While monetary disparities are the main source of gender inequality in the workplace, according to the WEF report, labor force participation and the presence of women in skilled and senior positions are relatively better. American women however, still struggle to enter the very top business positions. They are also underrepresented in emerging roles, such as cloud computing, engineering, data, artificial intelligence, and in political leadership roles as well.3
At all levels, 11.5 million women in the U.S. lost their jobs from February to May of this year compared with 9 million men because of business closures intended to stop the spread of Covid-19.4 As companies restructure their businesses and realign resources, both women and minority women may find themselves pushed out or at the least stalled in their upward movement. Some women are stepping away from jobs and careers, by necessity or choice, often still faced with the role of primary caregiver for children (and now their home-school teacher), even in dual-earning households.
The U.S. is not alone in its gender disparity and the unequal economic burden to women and minority women. More than just the right thing to do, acting to redress this imbalance, even in the midst of the pandemic, could result in substantial economic opportunity. A report from the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that interventions now, rather than waiting till later, could lead to $13 trillion in incremental GDP by 2030 — an 11% increase globally.5
More than diversity and inclusion: Workplace equity matters too
Despite the current situation, there are companies that continue to strive to achieve parity, viewing this goal as fundamental to their mission and their success. Though diversity, equity, and inclusion are sometimes used interchangeably, these words not only have distinct meanings, but all three are essential components to ensure a company has access to a wide range of perspectives, talents, and ideas.
Defining the differences
Diversity – The makeup of your workforce, which ideally comprises individuals who represent multiple races, gender identification, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, ethnicities, national origins, and mental and physical abilities.
Inclusion – The value of your workforce. Thoughts, ideas, and perspectives of all individuals matter, and people feel that they genuinely belong, are valued and relied upon, empowered and ultimately matter.
Equity vs. equality – The fairness of your workforce. Equity, unlike equality, recognizes that not everyone starts out the same and corrects imbalances to bridge the gap between minority and majority groups.
1 “Women’s Job Losses From Pandemic Aren’t Good for Economic Recovery” by Sarah Chaney, The Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2020 https://www.wsj.com/articles/womens-job-losses-from-pandemic-arent-good-for-economic-recovery-11592745164
2 Global Gender GapReport 2020 by World Economic Forum, 2019 http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2020.pdf
3 Ibid https://www.weforum.org/reports/gender-gap-2020-report-100-years-pay-equality/infographics#the-workplace-seniority-gap; https://www.weforum.org/reports/gender-gap-2020-report-100-years-pay-equality/infographics#how-do-we-reach-gender-parity-in-the-professions-of-the-futur;
4 “The ‘shecession’: why economic crisis is affecting women more than men” by Amanda Holpuch, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), The Guardian, August 4, 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/aug/04/shecession-coronavirus-pandemic-economic-fallout-women
5 “COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects” by Anu Madgavkar, Mekala Krishnan, Olivia White, and Deepa Mahajan, McKinsey Global Institute, July 15, 2020 https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/covid-19-and-gender-equality-countering-the-regressive-effects#