Once upon a time, we were normal. Employees worked primarily in company offices, with some more progressive workplaces allowing their teams to work remotely. Unemployment was at the lowest it’s been in decades, the economy was being driven by record highs in the stock market, and life was good. Until it wasn’t. Enter the new normal.
The coronavirus has upended the norms we use to calibrate our daily lives. Working outside the office just wasn’t done…until it became a necessity to keep business moving. The record low unemployment has become record high, with millions of Americans submitting for unemployment assistance. The health we assumed would continue, both in the corporeal sense and in business, has faltered as COVID-19 has killed more than 100,000 Americans and gut punched Main Street and side swiped larger corporations.
As outlined in another article on the blog (Recommendations for Compassionately & Authentically Addressing Racism), the societal injustices are also bringing a reckoning as the country sees the outrage following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. What is happening outside of the workplace is leaving indelible marks on the psyche of Black employees and all others who have faced racism.
The way we were working wasn’t normal
The reality that is exposed, now having moved beyond whisper networks and wisdom passed between associates, the reality that we have a chance to change is that none of the way business was operating was normal. Not for underrepresented employees, who have known for decades that they were being underpaid as women and/or people of color, discriminated against for belonging or aligning with the LGBTQ+ and being kept out of leadership roles due to the networks that perpetuate the hiring and promotion of White men and the occasional woman.
Returning to the office where:
- All women are paid 82 cents on the dollar compared to all men.
- Broken down even further, Black women are paid 62 cents on the dollar compared to white men and 79 cents compared to white women.
- Latina women make 55 cents on the dollar compared to white men; Native American 57 cents, and Asian women 90 cents.
- In 28 American states, it is legal to fire employees for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
- Only 19.3 percent of disabled Americans are employed according to stats from the Department of Labor Statistics in 2019 (compared to those without disability at 66.3 percent) and reports of disability-based discrimination are on the rise; in 2019, 24,238 disability discrimination complaints were filed with the EEOC.
- 46 percent of parents aren’t taking advantage of flexible work schedules.
- Men are 30 percent more likely to be promoted from an entry-level role to a managerial position than women.
When we know better, we can do better. For too long, leaders have paid lip service to diversity and inclusion but the needle has moved very little. As Wired noted after tech companies released their 2019 D&I numbers, nothing has changed in the number of Black and Latino engineers, data scientists and coders at Apple, Google and Microsoft. Women have fared slightly better in hiring but parity is still unachieved.
Initially, the coronavirus was called the great equalizer, until the statistics on illness and death revealed that Black, Native American and Latino communities were overwhelmingly being impacted by the virus.
Perhaps the equalization is in finally creating the equality we’ve been talking about for decades. Returning to the office not to the old normal but a new normal, a normal in which diversity, equity and inclusion are funded and elevated as a business imperative, discrimination is taken seriously and recognized as the culture killer that it is, and recalibrating our lives to a better balance between our lives and our work.