The Practicalities of Leading Inclusively During Crisis - Top Takeaways

29 Jul 2020

By Hazel Lush (Gapsquare)

In the context of crisis, previously important work can seem insignificant. At Gapsquare as the Covid19 crisis emerged, we understandably saw talk about inclusion turn to talk about survival, efforts to close the gender pay gap put aside by employers and the governments they operated under and the conversation around inclusive practice, people of colour and workplace culture go completely silent.

But this silence also revealed how much we underestimate the broader implications of inequality. After the initial reaction by employers, making sure everyone was safe and had all the basic tools they needed to go about their days, heads turned to who was being most impacted by the pandemic in the workplace. And the answer was simple, Women, ethnic minorities and disabled employees.

This was the momentum behind the second in a series of events run with the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), ‘The Practicalities of Leading Inclusively During Crisis’. Hosted by Gapsquare as part of a global partnership of equality-led organisations, this event, taking place on 16th July 2020, aimed to tackle some of the practical questions facing employers around inclusion and intersectional gender equality at this time.

Joined by incredible speakers Lopa Banerjee at UN women; Sallie Jian, Head of SAP.iO in New York; Colleen Ammerman of Harvard Business School Gender Initiative; Patricia Veringa-Gieskes of The Job Factory and Johannes (JOOP) Smits, Director, People and Organisation, PwC Switzerland this event tackled the need for understanding and ideas for best practice at this time.

At the event, CEO Gapsquare Zara Nanu shared exclusive research collected from global employers and organisations around their reactions and plans during this period. This research, which you can still take part in here and the conversation that followed revealed some interesting facts:

69% respondents believe that pay equity is still a priority

Prior to this survey, Gapsquare found that inclusive practices were being deprioritised, but this research may indicate a global reshifting of focus back onto equity.

‘Gender equality projects were widely cancelled in the face of Covid…women and minorities have found their positions further diminished. But it seems to be back on the agenda now’ Johannes (JOOP) Smits, Director, People and Organisation, PwC Switzerland (During event).

Only 30% of respondents have accurate data around ethnicity at present

This is a figure that plays out in Gapsquare’s experience directly with clients. In the wake of Black Lives Matter, employers are embracing increased momentum around ethnicity pay analysis and making sure their pay systems are fair for all people, including people of colour, disabled employees, LGBTQIA+ employees, etc.

This momentum must not be lost, but data collection and global alignment (if an organisation has offices in various countries) has to start with conversations with employees about reservations they may have and the importance of this data collection. You can learn more about conducting ethnicity pay analysis here.

Most respondents do not have data around employees with caring responsibilities that might impact their work

Women are more likely to hold a ‘caregiving burden’ noted Colleen Ammerman, Director of the Gender Initiative, Harvard Business School during the event, ‘in this new normal there are lots of ways in which gender equality is being magnified’. Lack of intelligence around who is caring for significant others is problematic, opening up conversation with your employees (men and women) and the demands on their time outside of work could lend itself to innovative solutions and enhancing productivity and wellbeing.

Ammerman went on to note that the motherhood penalty means that women “tend to be offered less money for jobs, are less likely to be hired, less likely to be promoted.. It stems from a belief that women with children are less committed to their work”. This research and the event itself show us that we must be careful not to doubly penalise women for caring responsibilities.

36% of respondents believe that learning & development has increased for their employees since the crisis began

This is great news and shows that employers are looking to reskill workforces. Mckinsey (2020) writes of the increased momentum around reskilling in the context of Covid19. Keeping in mind that investment in reskilling can be an alternative to redundancies for groups of employees, we hope that employers are using reskilling as a way to maintain an inclusive workplace.

53% of respondents are worried about financial growth in the wake of this crisis

Companies are worried about financial growth and are therefore also worried about whether they can keep their employees and which of their employees they should let go. Investment in maintaining opportunities for female workers, people of colour, disabled employees etc, should be essential to the discussions about growth. At the moment, these are the people most at risk.

This is reflected in the startup world where money has, in the past, failed to reach women and people of colour led businesses. Sallie Jian, Head of SAP.iO in New York noted at this event ‘Capital from early stage companies at the moment is restricted… women and minorities don’t often have the same networks as men to raise capital.’ Monitoring to whom money and opportunity is extended is a key aspect of maintaining a fair economy going forward. What happens in the startup world will ultimately be reflected in companies in the future. If our most innovative spaces can’t welcome diverse minds, we are at risk of long term issues for the future of work. So let’s do better.

In her introduction to this event, Lopa Banerjee of UN Women noted: ‘Covid did not happen in a vacuum, we already had deep inequalities… it has shone a light on the need for multi stakeholder reaction to these issues’.

In this context, we must turn towards, not away from inclusive practice when we are in a period of change. We must note the risks of not asking the right questions when we’re making long term financial decisions. Inclusive practice should be built into decision making. This event and the EPIC series in general, sheds light on a range of experiences and insights and asks us to move now on inclusion, gender and wider equality, despite and because of the challenges we face.

To catch up on this event, watch it here.

To be part of the research and hear updates on the employer context, head here.

The next event in this series will be on Tackling the wage gap through digital solutions, and will take place on Wednesday 19th August at 13:30 CEST, 12:30 BST and 0730 EST. Stay tuned here for updates.