While viruses themselves may not discriminate, the effects of Covid-19 are proving themselves oddly lopsided. These effects manifest at both ends of the female-dominated work spectrum in what has been dubbed the “pink collar” recession. In a recent Guardian article, the executive director of the think tank Per Capita says that the economic impact “is quite different in the way it’s playing out to previous economic downturns where it’s been men, and often blue-collar or lower-income men who have suffered worst. This time it’s been flipped around, and it’s women” who are most effected.
On one side, we have nurses who have to contend with an increased workload in a highly contagious and stressful environment. Meanwhile, massive job cuts across the retail, food services, and accommodation sectors mean that disproportionately large numbers of women have had their hours cut or been laid off outright. In this depressing vacuum of unemployment, women are more likely to second guess their choice to work. This mindset is especially prevalent in minority communities where gender roles are more strictly demarcated. Minority women may find it impossible to resist the pressure to conform to a patriarchal vision of “normalcy” and remain unemployed.
Statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that the mortality rate from Covid-19 is higher in black and Latino communities than for the rest of the population. This ties in with evidence that the coronavirus is especially lethal in patients contending with pre-existing medical conditions. Lifestyle choices and genetic predispositions within these minority communities make them particularly susceptible.
Compounding this avalanche of unfortunate facts are their cascading detrimental effects. Aspiring black and Latino leaders whose families have borne the brunt of the deadly virus may feel a need to postpone education and self-development programs, or place them on the backburner. Unfortunately, it is all too easy for a temporary break from work to become an extended hiatus and eventually fade into a dream. It does not have to be that way. That is where corporate leadership comes in.
Historically, American corporate leadership has blazed a trail for inclusivity – and this path has served it well in times of crisis. The rich diversity of organizations and the people they employee increases the likelihood of creating innovative solutions. Often, the burden lies on the corporate world to rededicate itself to the inclusive policies which have proven so effective in creating such teams. The solutions range from ensuring that diverse voices are heard to elevating deserving minority team members to take leadership roles.
Business schools have the responsibility to step up as well. Already, too many of the limited number of program seats are allocated to foreign students because they represent a more lucrative revenue stream. This bottleneck strangles the upward mobility of American minorities on which American institutions must focus. Minority access to high-quality education cannot be sidelined by a revenue shortfall using Covid as an excuse. Admissions departments must reevaluate how they encourage the most vulnerable sections of society to enter the corporate pipeline business schools represent.
Perhaps our world today – barely recognizable from the past – is the ideal blank canvas on which to stimulate progress. Please contact me today if you would like to discuss ways to move forward.