Marking a new dawn for the United States, President Biden recently revoked the diversity training ban and replaced it with a new executive order on advancing equity for underserved communities.
This comes as employment inequality for the underrepresented workforce spirals as a by-product of the pandemic. Women accounted for 100 percent of 140,000 jobs lost in December alone, and are still down 5.4 million jobs from February as compared to 4.4 million for men.
In response, businesses must help create a more accessible society. Industries must attract and retain more people from a range of backgrounds, at a time when the economy is in its worst shape since the Great Depression. To meet this challenge, we must acknowledge the inequality exposed by coronavirus, and the communities most impacted by it.
What businesses can do
According to the management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, women’s job losses due to Covid-19 are 1.8 times greater than men’s. Drawing on data from the International Labor Organisation, McKinsey and Oxford Economics, women occupy sectors particularly affected by the lockdown: hospitality, retail, the arts and administration.
The study also acknowledged the virus’ impact on unpaid care, disproportionately delivered by women. Working at home, however, means businesses can now employ people who stay at home due to care requirements, aren’t able to travel, or have disabilities. For example mothers – who often face discrimination in the workplace – are now able to work-at-home, and can fit in flexible shift work as and when needed. Coronavirus is creating a new normal for women – no woman’s career should be put on hold.
Digitally recruiting employees who are working at home is also allowing leaders to reach a more diverse demographic outside the small radius of their offices. It is enabling people in remote or impoverished areas to find new employment or training opportunities online that were once out of reach.
Female leadership and training programs can also help raise awareness on gender, and critically develop a network of both men and women as educators and promoters of gender equality. Organisations can help close the gender gap by running campaigns that mimic the UN #HeforShe campaign, in which men are encouraged to speak up on inequality – emphasizing that it is their fight too.
Running Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, such as supporting local communities, domestic abuse shelters or charities, by fundraising or providing mentors, can really make a difference to these crucial community services.
Teleperformance is proud to receive GPTW’s Best Workplaces for Women recognitions. TP Women is our global initiative that continues to be influential in helping women to progress their careers and in promoting the important role women play in the workplace. To date, TP Women has organized many events globally that drive awareness and women empowerment.
Strength through diversity
A shift in attitude must occur; diversity should be viewed as a company’s source of strength and progress. The more cultural perspectives, gender balance, and equality, the more organisational performance, motivation, attraction of talent, and employee engagement. It is key to also emphasize that high engagement and satisfaction levels go hand in hand with reduced employee turnover and increased productivity.
A 2018 Boston Consulting Group study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. Similarly, a 2017 report published by Credit Suisse said companies with at least one female director received a better return on their investments compared with companies with all-male boardrooms.
This tallied with a study by Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland into the gender make-up of the top management of the US’s biggest firms. The study found female representation in top management improves firm performance in companies that are focused on innovation.
Yet progress is slow. According to the Diligent Institute, women still make up only 20% of public company directors in the U.S. and represent only 22% of public company directors globally. Policies like California’s new diversity quota law are designed to close the gender gap in boardrooms, but this law only requires a fixed number of female candidates on boards instead of a percentage. Rather than replacing male directors, many companies are adding a new board seat and filling it with a woman. As a result, the overall gender balance in boardrooms has scarcely changed.
A new beginning?
The Biden administration, the most diverse in history, will help to set to tone for organisations everywhere. Biden’s ‘build back better’ plan for businesses offers hope for innovative sectors. The President’s spending priorities are focused on technology, sustainability and the green economy with $300 billion earmarked investment in research and development in 5G, artificial intelligence, advanced materials, biotechnology and clean vehicles.
Biden is also likely to increase spending on medium and small businesses and minority and women-owned businesses. The challenge for businesses in the US is to take advantage of investments in technology to give jobs to the best candidates while promoting diversity in the interests of innovation. This may include, for example, a fintech hiring a woman with an arts background, but employers must now recognise the symbiotic relationship between technology and creativity.
Cause for hope
Unless inequality is addressed, the disparities exposed by the pandemic will only get worse. As the economy adjusts to Covid, more training is needed to get people back into work, remotely if required. More diverse, and female boardrooms will give a wider range of people more confidence to apply for roles and sectors that they may have thought beyond them.
Businesses can lead the fightback to prosperity and become agents of inclusivity in the age of Covid, which, aided by the Biden administration, can shape America’s pandemic recovery and create a better America.
Progress will be slow, but as Biden said in victory, quoting the poet Seamus Heaney, ‘once in a lifetime chance and obligation to make hope and history rhyme.’
Written by Miranda Collard. Have you read?
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