COVID 19 Blog 1 – Diversity of Access, an aspect we can all now better understand

This woman is on her way to work. What happens if the bus does not show up?

I know we are all now living through a very strange time, with many of us working at home, being physically isolated from others, and many unfortunately even losing their jobs. Therefore, for the next month or so I will be writing blogs about my diversity, career development and leadership consulting through the lens of living through the COVID 19 virus (Coronavirus) pandemic

For this first blog, I am going to discuss an aspect of diversity which often is forgotten; diversity of access. Most often diversity discussions start with those immutable characteristics like gender, race age, sexual orientation. Then we move to diversity of life experience and upbringing like marital status, if we have children, military experience, our economic standing. But one aspect we often don’t recognize is the impact of access issues.

Now that we are living through this age of the COVID 19 virus pandemic, more of us are experiencing relatively minor issues of access:
• We may not be able to leave the house to get something we need
• A surgery or medical treatment we have scheduled may need to be delayed to give priority to severe COVID-19 cases
• A service we need may not be able now to come to our home and deliver
• We may go to the supermarket and only find six of the ten items we were seeking to buy.

Many low-paid people may need to decide between staying home while sick or going to work to meet financial obligations.

So given these experiences, perhaps we need to consider more severe and often permanent issues of access that can impact a person’s career or ability to find work. Be mindful of these, especially if you are a hiring manager and evaluating candidates too harshly. Here are some examples:

• A person with a medical condition which keeps them from driving, or being unable to financially afford car, and needing to reply on public transportation may show up late when the bus does not arrive.

• A single parent whose child care provider is ill and does not show up at the last minute may mean that an employee may not make it to work that day or be late since they have to scramble to arrange alternate childcare.

• A low hourly wage earner who does not have paid sick leave may need to choose between showing up to work sick or not making enough money to buy food that week.

What is unfortunate is that often these access issues disproportionately affect those who are already economically challenged, which further exacerbates their opportunities to compete for better jobs and pay. And we also need to keep in mind the intersectionality of diversity attributes, that issues of access disproportionately impacts constituencies like single mothers, people of color, and people with disabilities, who already have higher rates of unemployment and underemployment.

This means is that individuals and companies need to keep in mind issues of access and provide resources and tools to help level the playing field for those most impacted.

Introducing Gracie Gold – the Ultimate “Get Up” Story

Coach Gracie Gold and I are all smiles as I exit the ice with my props after my Light Entertainment Program

There are several other links toward the end of this blog with other inspiring figure skating stories, please do explore them.

Though I am diversity and career development consultant and trainer, many of my blog readers and clients know of my love of figure skating and my story of starting my own figure skating career at age 59. Several of them have encouraged me to even add a figure skating page on my website and enjoy hearing about my own skating journey.

In a recent “virtual breakfast” meeting with one of my favorite peers (Carolyn Naseer – read about her own innovate business – link to blog) that we did via Zoom instead of in person due to the CoronaVirus, I told her about my recent East Coast Adult Figure Skating Sectionals and being able to secure 2-time US Figure Skating Champion Gracie Gold as my coach. After sharing some photos online and telling her a little about Gracie’s journey, Carolyn she encouraged me to write this blog.

Gracie Gold’s help was instrumental in me winning my first East Coast Championships gold medal.

Gracie Gold is such a positive coach with excellent technical skills and an encouraging demeanor who helped me win my first Eastern Sectionals gold medal. My favorite photo (at the top of this blog) from Eastern Sectionals was a candid shot showing the pure joy on both our faces after I was getting off the ice with all my props following my Light Entertainment program.

What makes Gracie Gold so special? In figure skating circles, most people are familiar with Gracie’s story. After winning two US figure skating titles and attending the Olympics, her life took a difficult turn. Two and a half years ago and reeling from multiple traumatic events on and off the ice, including gaining 40 pounds, Gracie, then 22, entered a 45-day program at the Meadows in Wickenburg, Arizona, to address an eating disorder, depression and anxiety.

There are multiple stories that you can google and find about the details of Gracie’s struggles (here is one from The Guardian)

And then Gracie did the nearly impossible. At the highest levels of figure skating, people simply do not come back to compete after being off the ice so long and getting older in “figure skating years.” It just does not happen. But Gracie, filled with her love of figure skating showed tremendous grit and determination to start over again, and she worked her way up for the bottom, including having to compete at two smaller regional events to even qualify to compete at US Nationals.

Gracie finished 12th. Let’s put this in perspective; Gracie came back to become the 12th best female skater in the entire United States! When Gracie won her gold medals at past US Championships, people stood and applauded because they loved her skating. This year at Nationals, Gracie received tremendous standing ovations because they loved Gracie. In one of Gracie’s favorite photos published by US Figure Skating as she kneels on the ice at the conclusion of her program; if you look closely, you can see me there in the first row middle of the photo standing and applauding next to my mother seated in the white jacket.

One of US Figure Skating’s signature themes is “We Get Up,” that skating, like life, is difficult. But when you fall on the hard ice, just as you fall in life, you need to pick yourself up and move on. Gracie is indeed the ultimate “get up story.” And I count myself blessed to have met and worked with this outstanding young woman.

# # #

Eric Sjoberg is still excelling! With his mother in the stands at 2020 Nationals. At the junior level, Eric climbed from sixth place after the short program to win second after his nearly perfect long program.

Here is another inspiring short story of a skater, Lessons in Character from a Young Teen, about Eric Sjoberg, who overcame challenges with determination instead of quitting when things got really tough.

Two years ago, I wrote a series of “Get Up” blogs which included people getting up from challenges both on and off the ice.

Author Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz has written a series of books about figure skaters young and old who overcame various difficulties. Here is my blog about Joanne and her books.

And finally, my own get up story.

Thanks for reading!