The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered global society. The changes the pandemic has initiated increasingly seem to have potentially long-lasting impacts that will far outlive the virus. Countries and companies are rethinking their complex webs of international supply chains, demand for international travel has shriveled and countries are placing restrictions on the entry of foreigners.
A Trend Toward Intentional Distancing
This global fear of interacting with others, particularly those from outside our borders, threatens to put a dent in the tremendous progress our society has made toward diversity and inclusion in recent decades. “In times of crisis and extreme uncertainty, sometimes the knee-jerk reaction is to respond with fear,” says Sonia Thompson in an article for Forbes. “This causes some to only surround themselves with people who are like them, while intentionally distancing themselves from those who are different.”
Fear of "The Other"
Particularly singled out are Asian Americans, due to the fact that the virus originated in China. “The New York State Attorney General even launched a hotline, that allows New Yorkers to report hate crimes, harassment, and discrimination,” notes Thompson. “This was in direct response to reports of a rise in anti-Asian harassment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
And Competition Over Jobs
In addition to a rise in discrimination based on public health fears, the significant indirect impact the virus has had on the national economy has also proved to be a trigger for re-invigorated anti-immigration sentiment spurred by a fear of losing jobs to immigrants.
Uncertainty often causes fear, and that fear can easily turn into an impulse to keep those perceived as different at arm’s length. Avoid that impulse.
Now Is Not the Time to Back Away From Inclusion
It’s crucial that businesses and civil society stay mindful of the risks that can come from turning away from inclusion at a time when inclusion matters more than ever. As we’ve emphasized and as countless studies and academics have proven and pointed to, inclusion has a direct positive impact on the bottom line of countries across all industries and geographies.
At a time when our economy and the economies of nations around the world are threatened as they have never been before, we need to be inclusive. Continuing to value inclusion as a business imperative benefits not only our society, but also the bottom line.
Even—in fact, especially—during the coronavirus and its devastating impacts businesses should double down on being inclusive.
Avoiding the "Stuck State"
Organizations and their leaders are well-intentioned, yet many are still languishing in a stuck state. The key is for businesses to understand that leveraging diversity and inclusion to nurture a strong bottom line are long-term goals that require long-term efforts and cannot be solved through short-term initiatives. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Our white paper, Overcoming the Stuck State, offers some insights into the steps that need to be taken to get unstuck. These are trying times, but these are not the times to back away from the business imperative of building an inclusive culture. Inclusion matters! Download a free copy of our most recent white paper here.