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.