- COVID-19 is highlighting gender, racial and disability gaps.
- As we rebuild economies and reopen businesses, we have an opportunity to hardwire diversity, equity and inclusion into tomorrow's workplaces.
- World Economic Forum initiatives are working towards social progress.
But lockdowns didn’t create these problems. Even before the pandemic, gender, racial or disability gaps were persistent, especially when it comes to achieving decent work and economic opportunities.
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In 2019, women held 28% of managerial positions and 24.9% of seats in national parliaments, according to the UN SDG Progress Report 2020 – an improvement, but far from gender balance. And with gender parity 99.5 years away, none of us will experience it in our lifetimes, says the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2020.
Gender pay gaps are even wider for non-white women – just one of many examples of the impact of workplace racial biases, according to Adwoa Bagalini, the Forum’s Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion Lead.
Likewise, people with disabilities “often experience unequal hiring and promotion standards, unequal pay for equal work and occupational segregation. Only 4% of businesses are focused on making offerings inclusive of disability,” according to the Forum's Closing the Disability Inclusion Gap project.
COVID-19 exacerbates these problems. For example, only 20% of Black workers in the United States have been able to work from home during the pandemic, compared to 30% of white workers and 37% of Asian workers, according to McKinsey. Black Americans are more likely to work in low-wage, “high-contact, essential services” roles, the report explains – which not only puts them at greater risk of infection but also perpetuates the racial wealth gap.
Inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s good for the economy and for business. Open For Business, a coalition of companies advancing LGBTQI+ equality, shows a strong positive correlation between a country’s acceptance of LGBTQI+ people and the resilience of its economy. And for businesses, a “disability-inclusive business strategy” leads to 28% higher revenue and 30% higher profit margins.
“While much of the Great Reset will be about environmental sustainability and the better use of technology, it is also about seeking greater fairness and less inequality,” said Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab.
As we rebuild economies, reopen business and reconfigure our workplaces, we also have a chance to shift towards hardwiring greater diversity, equity and inclusion into these workplaces of the future, too.
How to reset workplaces with equity, inclusion and social justice in mind
Social justice initiatives can complement and even accelerate post-pandemic rebuilding.
In January 2020, the Forum launched Hardwiring Gender Parity into the Future of Work, an initiative aimed at accelerating the pathways for women to get the jobs of the future. By 2022, companies committed to:
- Identifying five new or transformed job roles that significantly impact their organization.
- Recruiting 50% female talent into these job roles.
- Developing a strong gender-equal reward system which addresses bias and ensures equal pay and equal opportunity to all staff.
Founding member Ingka Group, the parent company of IKEA, took the pledge further by committing to “achieving equal pay for work of equal value by the end of 2021, as well as reaching 50/50% gender balance in every unit, level, board and committee.”
In May 2020, the killing of George Floyd inspired companies around the world to support the Black Lives Matter movement and take action to end systemic racism. In addition to supporting current employees and speaking out against injustice, companies can seize this moment to address disparities in talent sourcing and selection, improve benchmarking and cultivate a culture of inclusivity, as a recent Forum toolkit explains.
As one example, IBM unveiled a new quantum education and research initiative for historically Black colleges and universities that includes a $100 million investment. The company’s current CEO, Arvind Krishna, is co-chair of an effort announced this summer to hire 100,000 New Yorkers who are from low-income minority neighborhoods by 2030.
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Efforts such as these will not only improve diversity and inclusion but will also help the company survive the economic crisis by bringing in new talent for the jobs of tomorrow while also boosting the local economy – a win for everyone involved.
What is the World Economic Forum doing to close the disability inclusion gap?
1.3 billion people across the world live with some form of disability – representing 17% of the global population, this is the largest minority group worldwide. Yet, only 4% of businesses are focused on making offerings inclusive of disability.
The Forum's Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society is working to close the disability inclusion gap by driving business action, capturing and disseminating learnings, and leveraging leadership for scale.
The Platform serves as an accelerator for the Valuable 500 -- a global collective of more than 400 companies committed to disability inclusion.
Companies that are part of The Valuable 500 are currently driving impact in 35 countries. This group brings the combined revenue of The Valuable 500’s current members to over $5.4 trillion, with over 14.8 million employees.
In 2021 Japan’s biggest private foundation, The Nippon Foundation, invested $5 million, to enable The Valuable 500 to launch Phase 2 of its global campaign. This figure represents the largest ever single investment into disability business inclusions.
Learn more in our impact story.
What the World Economic Forum and its partners are doing
- Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 4.0 is a toolkit for leaders to accelerate social progress in the future of work, with practical tips on how to improve talent sourcing and selection, organizational analysis and monitoring, and employee experience, reward and development.
- The Forum’s Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators are public-private platforms to develop national-level action plans and share knowledge and tools to increase workforce opportunities and work towards gender parity. The goal is to have accelerators in 15 countries by the end of 2020. In Latin America and the Caribbean, accelerators have been convened in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama and Peru in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank.
- Supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in collaboration with the Forum, the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality (PGLE) is a coalition of organizations committed to accelerating LGBTQI+ equality and inclusion in the workplace and in communities.
- Closing the Disability Inclusion Gap is a Forum initiative to accelerate the Valuable 500, which aims to engage 500 national and multinational private sector corporations to put disability inclusion on the agenda.