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Tackling Diversity Amid BLM, Recession, Covid-19

While the global coronavirus pandemic resulted in many U.S. companies cutting down diversity and inclusion hirings when Covid-19 ravaged the country in mid-March, another crisis centered around racial justice brought these issues back to life.

demonstration 5267931 640From early March to June 8, job title postings such as “chief diversity officer,” “diversity and inclusion recruiter,” and “D&I program manager,” sunk almost 60%, The Washington Post reports, citing data from online career site Glassdoor. This represented a bigger drop than for human resources job listings, which were down 49% in that span, and a 28% decline in overall job openings.

But as surely as the pandemic spurred negative fallout for D&I job postings, the May 25 police killing of George Floyd and subsequent nationwide protests led to a rebound for these listings. Since reaching a low point on June 8, D&I job postings shot up 55% amid the Black Lives Matter racial justice protests and movement.

“Employee reviews on Glassdoor discussing diversity, racial justice, Black Lives Matter and similar topics rose 63% following the week of May 25, as nationwide protests stirred dialogue about racial inequality among employees and leaders,” Glassdoor notes in its July 15 report, “Diversity Now: How Companies and Workers Are Bringing Nationwide Social Justice Protests to the Workplace.” Seventy-one percent “of these reviews expressed concern or dissatisfaction with companies’ responses.”

The Glassdoor report also notes that “more companies (300+) expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and acknowledged the reality of systemic racism and racial injustice, something that hadn’t happened before May’s protests.” 

The very quick drop off in D&I job openings during the pandemic is troubling for proponents of more diverse workplaces as it shows that employers are willing to wield an ax to these positions during rough times, Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor, told The Washington Post. Just as instructive is the rebound, as “the increase in D&I jobs occurs almost immediately after the protests began… [and] points to increased pressure both from society and from their employees,” he notes. And for some, the quick reversal in prioritizing diversity within such a short time raises suspicions.

“Prior to the recent resurgence, this was still a deeply undervalued role,” says Nicole Sanchez, chief executive of Vaya Consulting, a firm that specializes in diversity, equity and inclusion. “How am I supposed to believe that the thing you said was dispensable just weeks ago is suddenly the most important thing you’re doing?”

The Glassdoor report does offer some evidence, however, that companies are truly elevating D&I as a core function. That’s because when it comes to D&I executive and leadership roles, including chief diversity officer, head of diversity and inclusion and vice president of diversity and inclusion, these job openings have more than doubled since Jun 8.

April Miller Boise, general counsel at Eaton Corp., was a panelist in a June 18 webinar on race relations and fostering greater inclusion in the workplace, and co-sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Association of Corporate Counsel. 

Boise noted that corporate America is not being deliberate about making diversity and inclusion a core part of their workplace. “We have to be really intentional about the teams we are putting together and the actions we are taking to bring diversity to our organizations,” she said. 

SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., noted that racism is still prevalent in U.S. workplaces. “Organizations need to put more resources into their inclusion and diversity efforts, and it is not the job of the chief diversity officer alone,” Taylor said. “CHROs and general counsels have an important role to play.”

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