Will COVID-19 Foil Adland’s Diversity And Inclusion Work?

Different colored rubber ducks sit in wooden pigeon hole compartments. Concept image regarding different ethnicity/gender people living together in harmony together in the same social environment, getting along together, living side by side.
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While B&T’s Changing the Ratio has been postponed, that doesn’t mean the conversations around diversity and inclusion need to end. In fact, talking about it is more important than ever.

That’s why B&T is be running an article series, kindly sponsored by CHE Proximity and Adrenalin Media, around why changing the ratio is still paramount, even during these difficult times.  

There’s no denying COVID-19 has wreaked havoc not just across the advertising, media and marketing industries, but almost every industry across the world.

Adland has been hit particularly hard, with layoffs, furloughs and paycuts all put into action to help cut costs and in some cases, save agencies from going under.

Yet there is another potential cost to these layoffs, and that is foiling years of progress in regards to diversity and inclusion.

We already know women will be some of the hardest hit when it comes to job losses, yet what about everyone else – people from different racial backgrounds, or people with neurodiverse thinking?

It is clear inclusion and diversity are at risk during this crisis, yet diversity and inclusion is also critical for business recovery, resilience, and reimagination.

A recent article by Kevin Dolan, Vivian Hunt, Sara Prince, and Sandra Sancier-Sultan on American consulting firm Mckinsey & Company website spoke to why D&I is still vital.

They wrote: “The lessons from previous crises tell us there is a very real risk that inclusion and diversity may now recede as a strategic priority for organizations.

“This may be quite unintentional: companies will focus on their most pressing basic needs—such as urgent measures to adapt to new ways of working; consolidate workforce capacity; and maintain productivity, a sense of connection, and the physical and mental health of their employees.”

However, they argued that companies pulling back on D&I now may be placing themselves at a disadvantage.

The wrote: “They could not only face a backlash from customers and talent now but also, down the line, fail to better position themselves for growth and renewal.”

They also wrote progress on D&I could slow down during and after the crisis unless companies consciously focus on advancing diversity and fostering inclusion.

“The importance of such continuity is quite intuitive, but it was not the norm during the 2008–09 financial crisis: although gender-diversity programs were not officially deprioritized, they did not benefit from additional effort or interest, and programs targeting all employees became a higher priority among some of the companies in our sample.

“Furthermore, the crisis will probably intensify existing workplace-automation trends that are already expected to take a greater toll on women and minorities.”

However, employees can take steps to ensure their D&I efforts over the last several years do not buckle amid the current coronavirus crisis.

“Leaders and organizations will need enhanced problem-solving skills and vision to address dislocations in businesses, industries, and regulatory environments. Strategic agility—the ability to spot and seize game changers—is likely to be a mission-critical trait. It is also likely to be stronger in organizations that can draw on the full spectrum of diverse talent available to them.

“Our research and the research of others suggest that when companies invest in diversity and inclusion, they are in a better position to create more adaptive, effective teams and more likely to recognize diversity as a competitive advantage. Meanwhile, other companies might struggle.”

It’s clear that while we are all undoubtedly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in ways we never thought possible, ensuring D&I efforts don’t fall to the wayside is more important than ever; not only for the current state of your business but its future viability, too.

Special thanks to CHE Proximity and Adrenalin Media for making this content series possible.

 

 

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