Pandemic Challenges Workplace Diversity Gains

Pandemic Challenges Workplace Diversity Gains

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (commonly abbreviated as “DEI”) have surged to the top of most CEOs’ lists of necessities for building and growing companies. And there are solid reasons why. 

As shown by an accumulating body of studies, a workforce diverse in terms of age, abilities, racial and ethnic heritage, gender identity and sexual orientation, experiences, and perspectives is a more productive and successful workforce. The best companies thrive on new ideas, new insights, and new ways of problem-solving.

Furthermore, a diverse team helps forge international connections, opens new possibilities for reaching domestic and foreign markets, and enhances a company’s reputation as a forward-thinking and ethical leader among its peers. 

A strong commitment to DEI in a company’s hiring and employee development program gives that company a competitive edge, simply because it has a broader range of talent to draw on.

Lack of diversity – a pre-existing condition

But even before the full economic impacts of our current pandemic were known, female employees, employees of color, and others not part of the traditional majority remained underrepresented—particularly in positions of top responsibility—in proportion to their numbers in the general population. 

While it is sometimes challenging to get accurate DEI data from private companies, research clearly shows inequities. According to studies widely publicized in mid-2020, about 64 percent of employees taking entry-level positions were white, while 85 percent of C-suite jobs—including those at Fortune 500 companies—were held by white males. 

We’re in it together, but some of us are falling farther

Now, we must reckon with the continuing fallout from the pandemic. Almost every employee in the world, of every background, has felt the impact of office closures, relocations, shifts to remote or hybrid work, or the threat—or reality—of layoffs or reduced hours. Almost all have felt some degree of anxiety about juggling responsibilities and roles in this new world of work. 

Yet it’s become clear, from both studies and a wealth of self-reported evidence, that employees from non-traditional backgrounds are experiencing the worst of the struggle. These employees are asking their companies for additional support and a healthier way to balance work and family responsibilities. Frustratingly, these pleas are often only partially fulfilled at best. 

The need for access to high-quality mental health resources has emerged as an increasingly acute work-related issue, as numerous employees from diverse backgrounds report feeling marginalized, overworked, or that they are at greater risk of firing or career derailment when their employers’ finances are on shaky ground. In fact, a 2020 study showed that only about 1 in 6 employees who come from diverse backgrounds reported feeling adequately supported by their employers.

It’s not only women, employees of color, and LGBTQ+ employees who are having an especially hard time. Working parents of all backgrounds are feeling the economic, emotional, and time-crunch impact of our COVID-19 world.

The pandemic’s widening gender gap

Women have been affected in a way that ties directly to their gender. The pandemic has disproportionately affected women who are mothers, women of color, and women in upper management positions. Women, more so than men, have had to make hard choices about whether to continue working or care for children or elders during the pandemic. Limited or no access to daycare due to closures added an enormous problem to many women’s already precarious situations. 

One pandemic-era survey asked 1,000 female-identified employees in the US how they felt about their career trajectories. More than half responded that pandemic conditions have set them back. A study from late 2020 showed that 25 percent of full-time female employees, often burnt-out from their jobs and a disproportionate share of household responsibilities, were considering quitting. Other data showed that more than half of female managers considered leaving their jobs after March 2020. 

For women of color and single mothers, who often fill lower-wage jobs that are the sole support of themselves and their families, this crisis has long passed the point at which it could be described as “acute.”  

The burden on people of color just intensified

Black Americans, Latinos, and Native American employees of all genders are over-represented in lower-wage, “essential” service jobs, even as these groups tend to have higher rates of pre-existing conditions that can exacerbate the lethality of COVID-19. 

Additionally, employees of color (notably including Asian Americans), whether they have personally been targeted or not, are living under the stress of an upsurge in violent, racially motivated attacks. The fear that people in these situations live under daily may be scarcely imaginable to white CEOs. Pre-COVID research demonstrates that both direct and vicarious exposure to law enforcement violence of any kind measurably diminishes the ability of employees of color to fully engage at work. 

Small steps forward, future progress in doubt

If there’s any good news in all this, it’s that 40 percent of the international cohort of companies responding to a recent survey reported that they are increasing their investment into DEI programs, even in cases when they are being forced to trim other parts of their budgets amid the pandemic. Close to all the companies surveyed reported putting some type of COVID-19-related programs in place to support all their employees. 

Even so, 90 percent of the CEOs in the survey noted that they were experiencing roadblocks to the full implementation of their DEI development strategies. 

So how can employers help? 

According to a consensus of experts, there are a few ways:

  • Maintain and step up company efforts toward not only diversity but inclusion. Three out of five employees from diverse backgrounds have reported not feeling they could be their real selves at work.
  • Make the work environment more human-centered with meaningful opportunities for team-building and personal interaction, whether remote or in-person. While building these connections, don’t forget that employees experience different impacts from the pandemic, and some may need more or a different type of support than others. 
  • Avoid “color-blind” public statements that minimize the distinct challenges faced by women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and other especially vulnerable populations among your employees. Stand up for your employees by challenging racist, sexist, and other biased behavior.
  • Empower employees to take care of themselves. Experts estimate that emotional trauma sustained during a disaster outpaces physical harm by a rate of 40 to 1. Ease red tape and lessen any culture of stigma to make it easier for employees to take time off if they need it. Prioritize the most essential tasks in case anyone needs unexpected time away. 

Ask employees what they need, rather than making assumptions. Ask them how they’re doing in a way that invites real conversation. One of the most productive questions can be “What do you need from me right now?”

7 Business Lessons You Should Learn by 30

7 Business Lessons You Should Learn by 30

Starting a business — or even getting involved as a professional — when you’re young can be intimidating. You might have knowledge about business from school, books or practical advice from sources online, but there’s a big difference between understanding business fundamentals on paper and gaining wisdom through actual experience.

By the end of your career, you’ll have accumulated a wealth of knowledge and hundreds of lessons, but there are some lessons that you should learn early on — ideally before you turn 30.

This article by Jayson Demers of outlines the 7 lessons everyone should learn before they turn 30.

Click here to read the full article.

AI: It’s What’s For Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

AI: It’s What’s For Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

From delivering your groceries to helping you decompress after a long day, the latest advancements in artificial intelligence aim to make everyday life easier for humans. The latest news from the forefront of warehouse and home robotics technology indicate promising developments on the horizon. Just think, soon we could be having our groceries bagged by robots, then sitting down to dinner with a robot companion capable of much more than just passing the salt and pepper.

Ocado: The UK-based grocery delivery service, which logged 1.5 billion USD in 2014 revenue, is developing automated humanoid robots to assist with warehouse operations. “The ultimate aim is for humans to end up relying on collaborative robots because they have become an active participant in their daily tasks,” said Dr Graham Deacon, Robotics Research Team Leader at Ocado Technology. The robots will assist human mechanics in keeping the shipping facility running at optimum speed and efficiency. By evaluating the poses of their human counterparts, these robots will eventually be able to anticipate the needs of their human co-workers. If successful, Ocado’s humanoid robots will be the first to offer intuitive support in a warehouse setting. The company also filed a recent patent for robots capable of selecting and packing grocery orders, which could drastically alter the warehouse needs of large scale shipping companies.

Pepper: Japan based SoftBank Robotics Corp. recently sold 1,000 units of its much buzzed about home robot helper, Pepper, in one minute on its first day of consumer sales. Pepper aims to be a part of the family, offering conversation and even the ability to read and form emotions, thanks to sensors and cloud-based artificial intelligence (the algorithms for which have been closely guarded thus far). With a $1600 price tag, Pepper is a bargain compared to comparable robots, but is a robot companion a worthy investment? While it may be a novelty in its initial stages, SoftBank anticipates rolling Pepper out worldwide next year, with projected applications in office environments. Pepper could also pave the way for automated caregiver and nanny robots, with emotional intelligence being an essential component from taking robots from the warehouse to the home.




iPhone Does Away With Headphone Jack, Making Fans Go Crazy

iPhone Does Away With Headphone Jack, Making Fans Go Crazy

Due to hit stores in September, the next generation iPhone—presumably to be called the iPhone 7—has a lot of people excited for its latest innovations such as a waterproof frame and wireless charging capability. But one of its new features, the removal of the standard 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of making the new phone slimmer and sleeker, has at least 300,000 people outraged.

“Apple is about to rip off every one of its customers. Again,” reads an online petition that calls on the tech giant to restore traditional headphone jacks to its next phone.

Though the change is still only a rumor at this point, mounting evidence suggests that the headphone jack is history. But you need not worry if the rumor turns out to be true. The new iPhone will come with brand new Apple earbuds that will allow you to plug into your music by using the phone’s Lightning port.

Connecting headphones to the phone this way will actually help improve sound quality. By using the power from Lightning cables, headphones can power built-in amplifiers for a much smoother listening experience. A source close to Apple also indicated that the iPhone 7’s new Lightning audio system will also include noise canceling technology.

But despite the benefits of the new system, some fans are unhappy because they fear having to leave their favorite standard headphones behind or spend more money to be able to use them.

Though its products sell supremely well, Apple has been known to upset customers with many past feature changes. Back in 2012, the company removed the 30-pin charge connector that was used in all its products to that point in favor of the 8-pin Lightning charger its products use today. Though many people were upset about having to stop using their old charging cables, everyone eventually adapted to the better system. Apple’s computers also lost their optical drives some time ago. More recently, the company removed all but one port from its 12-inch MacBook Pro. The remaining port triples as a charger, USB, and device connector.

Like it’s done before, Apple appears to be paving the way for the future. Several overseas Android phones are also making use of new USB port technology in place of traditional headphone jacks to deliver higher quality digital audio to their users, signaling that headphones jacks are simply becoming outdated. Apple may just be the first company to make this change in the United States.

Fortunately, a number of options are available to help you if you’re among those people wishing to use your standard headphones with the new iPhone. Firstly, it is highly likely that standard headphone jack to Lightning port adapters will hit the market at the same time the new iPhone does. They should be available on Amazon or eBay very cheaply. For a more sophisticated option, you may plug your traditional headphones into a Bluetooth audio receiver, which will beam music to you from your iPhone 7 with exceptional sound quality.


Be Good, Be Profitable. Be Socially Conscious.

Be Good, Be Profitable. Be Socially Conscious.

Socially conscious, social entrepreneurship, and corporate sustainability. We hear these words together a lot, and with good reason. Social entrepreneurship requires businesses to be socially conscious—and, if deemed so appropriately, these business will likely have corporate sustainability, or long-term value through a “green” strategy supporting the natural environment and considering every dimension of how a business operates in the social, cultural, and economic environment.

Socially conscious business models have garnered a lot of attention lately. This is evident just by walking through the doors of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship in New York City, an entire coworking space, community, and launch pad built specifically for entrepreneurs starting socially conscious businesses. However, this shift toward social entrepreneurship isn’t limited to startups and small brands. Even large, well-established companies like Patagonia—which was founded on a three-pronged mission “to build the best products, do no unnecessary harm and to use business to inspire solutions to the environmental crisis”—have made socially conscious business practices the platform of their organizations.

Even companies that have long been considered “traditional,” (translate, stuck in their ways) have been taking broad strokes to become more socially conscious. Daily Finance cites Walmart, Waste Management, and Unilever as three of five surprising companies that have gone green—the final focused entirely on “altering its business model with a focus on sustainability.” The takeaway? Socially conscious business practices are no longer just a “perk” or selling point for PR purposes. In my mind, both from a business and profitability standpoint, and from a moral standpoint, being socially conscious should be a requirement.

And while progress is being made on this front, it seems like we’ve been talking about this for a long time, with very little progress toward consistent change. This is evident in what I see day-to-day—the small oversight of people failing to recycle during their lunch hours—so I can’t imagine the kinds of socially conscious infractions I’d see if I took a peek behind closed-doors of large companies. Perhaps the scare tactics aren’t being used effectively enough. I can think of one in particular that’s worked well on me: We are at a tipping point today, because by 2050 we will be beyond our resources as a plant. This is scary. I could live to see this day if I don’t start making changes right now; if we don’t all start making changes right now.

According to World Wildlife Federation’s Jason Clay in his TED Talk How Big Brands Can Help Save Biodiversity, it’s even simpler than that: Inspiring 100 key companies to go sustainable will be enough to convince global markets to shift and make significant changes to protect the planet that our consumption has already outgrown. Clay’s roundtables are already getting big brands to agree on green practices before their products even hit store shelves. The point is, as business owners we all need to make a commitment to making socially conscious practices a part of our business, in the same way we make accounting, marketing, or human resources a part of our businesses. Whether its using solar and wind power to run manufacturing; sourcing our products from vendors who respect the earth, people and animals; or providing our employees with the benefits they need to live well at and away from work, we need to commit to making these changes and be completely transparent in doing so.

For those business owners who aren’t easily scared, or don’t think they have the infrastructure to support such a shift, perhaps it’s more impactful to talk about the benefits of social responsibility to the business itself. In addition to just being the right thing to do, socially conscious practices are also profitable. Earlier I mentioned the correlation between social entrepreneurship and corporate sustainability. Sustainability—closely linked to profitability—is one of the tenants of social entrepreneurship. Our minds are focused on “not running out” because that is exactly what we are so close to doing. It’s just plain, good business sense to use methods that will conserve our resources (be they people or products) and save us money in the long run. And there are plenty of companies that started out small and have accomplished just that. Look where they are now, in most cases beating out those who are slow to change: Patagonia, mention above, has seen double digit growth annually over the past five years; and Al Gore and David Blood’s Investment Firm, Generation demonstrates the success of a deliberative investment model committed to reducing environmental and social damage, by showing greater returns and less volatility than the standard investment house approach by a significant percentage.

The real kicker for me, though, is the recently discovered, and rarely discussed link between the environmental destruction of our planet and human trafficking, which is outlined in abolitionist Kevin Bale’s book: Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World.  Many of us are unknowingly supporting the perpetuation of modern day slavery through our daily consumer habits, just by purchasing from companies who haven’t fully vetted the practices of their supply chains. So much so, that the interactive website Made in a Free World was founded to allow anyone to compile information about their consumer habits and estimate the correlation of those habits to the promotion of slavery. This organization is currently building a revolutionary tool for companies to directly address slavery in their supply chains, along with a movement to partner with companies who are actively building “a free world,” by practicing socially conscious business.

As far as appearances are concerned, from corporate to cultural measures and everything in between, we live in a world that cares about social entrepreneurship and corporate sustainability. It’s time we start consistently acting on that feeling.

Originally published on Huffington Post

5 Things Your CEO Won’t Tell You — But Should

5 Things Your CEO Won’t Tell You — But Should

Why haven’t you gotten that promotion or raise? Why does your boss give you extra attention, but not in the way you’d like? There are modes of behavior that are not in the employee handbook which can radically affect the way you are perceived by your CEO at work. Though these traits are not in themselves fireable offenses, they won’t make you a popular person to your CEO (or your fellow coworkers) either. Luckily, once you become aware that you may be guilty of these actions, it’s easy enough to curb these bad behaviors if you can be honest with yourself.

Mind Your Bad Attitude

An employee’s work product is a huge part of what sets them apart from their coworkers. Company culture is a huge part of what creates a successful or unsuccessful environment for a business, and a person’s attitude can create a positive or negative atmosphere. We all have days that aren’t ideal: lose a client, an account, or don’t hit revenue targets. It happens. The difference between an employee who gets negative or positive attention from the CEO is how the employee handles bad news, and stressors.

Honesty vs Oversharing

Let’s face it, no one wants to see fifty pictures of your cat. At work, there should be a certain level of friendliness but please, keep it professional, especially if you work in an industry that requires discretion. If your loose lips run amok at the watercooler, you may sink your own ship come promotion time. A person who can’t tell the difference between what should or shouldn’t be shared at work (or company functions), comes off as untrustworthy. Who wants to share information with a person who shares all information?

Share an appropriate number of pictures. There is no need to go all or nothing, but know your audience. Your CEO could be a dog person.

Are You Being Micromanaged? There Is Probably A Good Reason

To be fair, some micromanagers are born and their helicoptering can’t be helped regardless of how perfect your work is. For the purposes of this article, let’s concentrate on you. Ask yourself honestly: have I been dropping the ball, missing deadlines, turning in sloppy work, or coming to meetings ill-prepared? If you answer “yes” to any of those questions, you may need a micromanager. Nobody wants to admit he or she is failing in their roles, but many targets of micromanagement fail to ask the aforementioned questions. If your CEO is hovering and using you as a helipad but no one else, it may be time for you to be honest with yourself about your performance at work.

Emotions Can Affect Your Credibility

Life happens, so we are not suggesting that having emotions from situational incidents or struggles in your personal life isn’t ok. What we’re talking about is whining, pouting, rage, storming out of meetings, or overreacting to x. There is one surefire thing that no CEO (or anyone) enjoys in an employee: a moody, constant complainer. If your moods change with your current situation, if you get slighted easily, or if you bring every single complaint about the weather, your significant other, etc to every conversation with your CEO, you’ll start looking like the boy or girl who cried wolf. They will automatically discount your complaints as your modus operandi.

Your Boss Isn’t Your Friend

Some bosses and employees are friends, but that isn’t always the case. Don’t overshare, ingratiate yourself, or expect for the end of your tenure at the company to mean that you’ll be taking trips to Hawaii with your CEO. First and foremost, they are your boss — responsible for your paycheck, and your upward mobility. Your actions outside of work are just as important as how you act at work. A CEO will not groom you to be their next manager if you cannot show decorum, restraint, and grace in every circumstance and situation.

Often, CEOs won’t bring these issues up in your one-on-ones. Maybe they think you are a lost cause. Ask yourself honestly if you are guilty of some or all the above, and if you aren’t sure, the answer is most likely a yes.

Originally published on Huffington Post