top of page
  • Heather Polivka

Are We Ready to "Walk The Talk" with DEI&B?

In this blog series, we continue to explore considerations for the NEW, new normal emerging in the months and year ahead.

In our last post, we explored the increasing refrains from people of wanting greater flexibility, autonomy, and variety of work…. which is leading to a rapid expansion of Gig talent. And we asked, is your company “Gig Ready”?

Now, staying in the realm of talent, lets discuss how the pandemic impacted various people populations and raised the bar on the level of intention and action needed to create employee populations that represent those we serve, and the communities in which we operate.


Time for the T. Many companies and industries were struggling with advancing proportional representation of women and people of color across all levels, all functions of their organizations pre-COVID. This challenge just got MUCH harder with the pandemic. And yet, the sense of urgency for companies to create more diverse and representative employee populations has never been greater.

Women in the workforce are now at the lowest levels seen since 1988. All the gains for female representation in the workforce from the past 50 years has been wiped out in 2020. Start digging deeper into Black, Hispanic, Latino, Asian and Indigenous Women…. and the impact is even greater.

This is a major loss of institutional knowledge for businesses. Maybe those gaps have not been felt yet, but that loss WILL be felt when the recovery starts to happen. In fact, this loss of talent and knowledge will inhibit the recovery for many businesses.

Look at these 2 graphs.

The first graph* (source link here ) shows how women participating in the workforce decreased in the first nine months of 2020. As if that were not bad enough, it only got WORSE as the fall and winter went on, with 100% of the jobs lost in December 2020 being women. Even for women without children, the loss of jobs was greater than for men. These numbers represent all women. When you drill down further to look at job loss for Black, Hispanic, Latino, Asian and Indigenous women…. Well, devastating.

The 2nd graph** (source link here) illustrates Black employee representation across the US private sector as of June 2020. While Black employees comprise 12% of the overall US private sector, the represent a disproportionate amount of frontline workers. These are some of the jobs that have been most impacted by the pandemic and economic decline. Again, the loss of talent and institutional knowledge for companies will be felt, and will inhibit their ability to recover, as they head in the NEW, new normal.

In this second graph, it is important to note that the only levels of an organization where the percentage of Black employee representation closely matches the overall percentage of the Black labor force in the US private sector employee population is at the entry-level and the Board level. There is a sag in the career ladder for Black talent to move up to through the ranks of private sector companies.

As we head into the NEW, new normal….and think about cultivating employee populations that match the communities we serve and operate within, it requires a level of intention and action that has not been undertaken previously. It requires being willing to ask the tough questions, do the honest reflection, and welcome a rich, diverse set of responses to craft solutions.

As leaders, we all need to be asking ourselves: How am I going to create an outcome of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and representation that is better and different than pre-COVID? Then 2020? How am I going to create an environment that better leverages women? That better brings in the diverse perspectives of Black, Hispanic, Latino, Asian and Indigenous people? That better serves my customers, communities and, ultimately, my bottom line?

How am I going to get the talent back that was lost over the past 14 months? How am I going to retain talent when the economy starts to recover and voluntary turnover skyrockets? How am I going to engage my people so they want…or even have…the discretionary effort to make my company and team a high performing one?

Study after study shows that diversity accelerates innovation and growth.

How can a company or team possibly create products or services that address the needs of women if they do not have the breadth of female voices present at every stage of the process, from inception to sales? How can a company attract and serve Black and Brown customers if they do not have the rich, full range of Black and Brown perspectives throughout all levels of the organization, in all functions?

Many companies posted statements last summer in support of racial justice and equality. Now, their employees are watching closely as we head into the NEW, new normal to see if their actions match their words. Are they “Walking The Talk”, consistently, in every aspect? Hiring. Development. Retention. Advancement. Resources. Prioritization.

And beyond work, what about that? Are these companies as committed to “Walking The Talk” to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of their employees outside of work? Even if for no other reason than it allows their employees to be their best and perform at the level they are capable of when it comes to their work?

Are companies that want to attract diverse talent and serve diverse communities speaking out on voting rights legislation that would mute diverse voices? Do donations to politicians, political parties, and causes demonstrate “Walking the Talk”? And what about the Executive Leadership team?

It is inauthentic to think that we can create work environments of psychological safety for all people to contribute their full talents if, in other ways, our companies or Leaders would deny some people their safety, well-being, humanity, empowerment, and rights in other aspects of their lives.

It is no longer enough to say the right things. As we head into the NEW, new normal, customers, employees, and shareholders alike are expecting companies to DO the right things.

To DO the right thing will involve a lot of intention, reflection, diverse voices, prioritization, and meaningful action as each company creates their NEW, new normal.

Are we ready to do the hard work? Are we ready to walk the talk?

Join us in future weekly blog editions as we explore the role of the office, technology, and more!

Interested in exploring what’s next for your organization? Schedule a no-obligation 30 minute strategy call with Heather by clicking here.

19 views0 comments


bottom of page