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diversity and inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion Is Still a Business Imperative

A blog by Kevin Jordan, Director, Diversity and Inclusion at ITW

During times of crisis, diversity and inclusion may not be top of mind for leaders. As we watch the impact of the pandemic on the global economy, it is a strong reminder to us all that that regardless of industry, people are the greatest asset to every organization and the commitment to diversity and inclusion is still a business imperative.

We think about diversity as the many different ways that an individual may identify. Those identities “intersect,” resulting in a reflection of the multidimensional human beings that all of us truly are. I often say that we don’t instantly become someone else when we swipe our badges and enter the workplace, but we bring those identities to work with us whether or not we choose to acknowledge them.

Identities - such as parents, children of aging parents, caregivers, differing abilities, married, single and so on – all have to be managed during the course of any given day at work and at home. But what happens when work, home and all of these identities converge during unprecedented times like these - when social distance becomes the new norm and the boundaries between work and home are even more narrow?

Friends and colleagues share stories of participating in conference calls and team webcasts while both parenting and teaching children who are now home full time or checking on parents and other family members who may have already been facing health challenges. Some feel isolated from others either because they are sheltering-in-place, or because they are essential colleagues who are practicing social distancing and feel alone. During these difficult days, it is important for leaders to remember the basic principles of inclusion.

First, times like these require visible authenticity from leaders. For many, this pandemic is unlike any experience that they have endured before. We’re experiencing feelings of fear, isolation, stress and grief, just to name a few. We don’t expect our leaders to necessarily have all of the answers, but we do expect them to care and show genuine concern. Before starting your conference call or web meeting, do a quick check-in and ask your employees how they are doing. Seek to understand the intersectional identities of your team members and how their experiences may differ from yours.

Also remember that establishing trust is foundational to building an inclusive team. Just because we’re not in the same physical space doesn’t mean there is any less commitment to the work that we’ve been hired to do. In our current environment, how we do our work may look a little differently than it did before this pandemic. As leaders, let’s trust our colleagues to get their work done and be willing to be flexible when needed.

Additionally, when facing a local, national or global crisis, consider the impact to communities that have been historically marginalized or under-resourced as the effects could potentially be even more detrimental for them. This could be an opportune time to meet with Employee Resource Group leaders at your company to understand the challenges certain communities may be facing and strategize how collectively you can provide support to colleagues or impacted communities.

Finally, remember to lead with empathy. This pandemic has affected all of us regardless of geography, gender identity/expression, ethnicity/race, marital status, socioeconomic class, etc. Let’s allow empathy to transcend across our differences in support of our colleagues regardless of who they are or where they are in the world.


Photo credit: Thanks to Chris Montgomery for sharing their work on Unsplash.