Individual companies can also examine what they are doing to support Black people and women—ensuring they are given equal hiring and promotion opportunities. Consumers can also proactively buy from Black and female-owned businesses.
It will take broader systemic change to prevent future crises like coronavirus hurting one group disproportionately.
Kellie believes that greater representation for workers on company boards is an important starting point. By inviting frontline workers to share their views—or even sit on the board—leadership can better understand the issues that workers face, and act to tackle them. Since frontline workers are often Black and female, direct representation would be a start.
“Corporate leadership has gotten so far away from understanding the day-to-day existence of the worker,” Kellie comments. “The best thing they can do is get more in touch with the worker experience in their company.”
The importance of political change
In the US, a change in political leadership will be equally crucial to ensure racial and gender equality is considered and prioritized during coronavirus recovery.
Since the election of Donald Trump the US has witnessed an increase in racially motivated hate crime. The Trump administration itself has also attempted to block equal pay laws, and roll back women’s reproductive rights.
“We need political change, and we need to get Americans out to vote,” says Kellie (right). “Things aren’t going to change if we have the same president.”
During the last US election in 2016, Black voter turnout dropped for the first time since 1996. To encourage better turnout in 2020, Kellie recommends that companies designate election day as a holiday. Many organizations—from Coca-Cola to Unilever—have already taken this step.
“It’s these systemic policy changes that are going to really make a difference, so that when a crisis happens, one group doesn’t bear more of the burden than they should,” adds Michele.
The disproportionate impact that coronavirus has had on Black women has thrown into sharp focus the social and economic inequalities that persist in America today. Only when these inequities are dismantled will an equitable crisis response be possible.
“When we don’t take care of the least [privileged] of us—when we don’t make sure that everyone has equitable care, protection and opportunities—it hurts everyone,” Michele concludes.
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