Diversity in the time of COVID-19

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Through the prism of the coronavirus crisis and national protests over the death of George Floyd in May, it has become clear that most workplace diversity plans don’t go far enough.

Although the latest workplace acronym for DE&I plans (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) represents the wider scope that diversity plans now encompass, strategic diversity goals must expand to an even wider umbrella beyond the traditional narrow focus of hiring representative talent or promoting diverse managers.

See more: Diversity Now! Special report

In our cover story, associate editors Amanda Schiavo and Kayla Webster examine the latest workplace challenge as employers scrutinize their diversity efforts amid national protests for change. While Fortune 500 companies ranging from General Motors, Walt Disney and others have boosted diversity training or donations for worthy causes, the raw numbers are still discouraging. Black adults still make up only 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs, with only 3.2% rising to senior level managers, according to the Center for Talent Innovation. Nearly one in five Black professionals don’t think they can achieve a top ranking position within their company, and it’s hard to dispute the sentiment. Of all the Fortune 500 companies, there are only four Black CEOs — and none of them are women.

As part of our diversity issue, Webster also interviewed Regina Faul, labor and employment chair at the law firm Phillips Nizer, to discuss the landmark Supreme Court ruling that gives extended workplace protections to the LGBTQ community under the Civil Rights Act. The ruling in June — coming just five years after the same court ruled in favor of the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry — ensures LGBTQ employees are protected from wrongful termination based on their sexual orientation.

However, employers must step up to ensure that their workplace embraces diversity, says Corie Pauling, vice president and chief inclusion and diversity officer at financial services company TIAA. In a companion piece, senior editor Alyssa Place writes about the importance of such diversity training efforts — and how they need to be embedded in workplace culture, as opposed to just being relegated to an annual diversity training event.

In an opinion piece, Lester Morales, CEO of Next Impact, a healthcare insurance consultancy for advisers and their clients, writes about his personal experiences with discrimination both from the white and Latino communities.

“To this day, I still get called ‘gringo,’ a pejorative term for a white person in the Latino community. Sometimes I feel like an outsider in an area of people with my ethnicity,” he writes, noting the lack of diversity and inclusion. “While some underrepresented groups establish professional councils to support one another, the irony is that their push for inclusion creates an organization that excludes others.”

How should the industry and individuals respond? Morales concludes:

“As someone who’s clearly in the minority among other employee benefit brokers and advisers, I have a responsibility to help pave the way for positive change.”

As part of our continuing coverage of the coronavirus crisis and remote work, associate editor Evelina Nedlund also examined other useful tools to help your remote workforce.

While free food may become taboo under new social distancing rules, companies such as Stadium, a New York City-based group lunch delivery company, and meal subscription company Freshly are figuring out the new perks for employees working remotely under these abnormal times of COVID-19.

— Walden Siew, Editor-in-Chief

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Diversity and equality Coronavirus Workplace management Workplace culture Benefit management