How has the pandemic affected diversity and inclusion [VIDEO]?

The global pandemic has had a massive impact on women worldwide, who had to face professional and personal challenges. But even this global outbreak did not stop thousands of women from all over the world from taking part in the Women in Tech Summit in December 2020, held – of course – virtually. Real-life stars, such as NASA’s Anna L. Fisher, spoke at the event. Not only did we watch the conference, but we promoted it as a media partner. W Insight’s Editor-in-Chief Joanna Socha moderated one of the panels about the implications of COVID-19 on diversity and inclusion, and the video from that panel is now available online.

Watch it to get insights from experts, such as:

  • Siri ChilaziGender and organizations researcher at the Women and Public Policy Program, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Dr Merrion Edwards, Director, Global Market & Technology Development, Corning
  • Shefali Gera, EMEA Head of Wellness and Diversity & Inclusion, Goldman Sachs
  • Peter Lacek, Director of Global Audit Methodology & Head of Audit, Citi Poland
  • Phil Wolfenden, Vice President, Cisco

Although some may joke that the best Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in history might have been COVID-19, the global pandemic has actually had an extreme influence on employees worldwide who faced various challenges. Families with children often lacked enough equipment in the household for online classes; some women had to work more to cope with professional responsibilities and take care of family. 

According to Siri Chilazi from the Harvard Kennedy School, some of the early research shows that the pandemic exacerbated many of the existing inequalities, especially with respect to gender.  Women were more likely to lose their jobs, she said, and they also were more likely to be forced to work in frontline jobs, like healthcare, nursing, working at the grocery store, she added. According to Chilazi, women were also more likely than men to scale back their hours or even leave the workforce entirely. 

According to Merrion Edwards from Corning, the pandemic highlighted the need for employee technology enablement and for high-speed broadband communications for all. It also demonstrated the disproportion of the burden of childcare carried by women, according to Edwards. Can we do something about it? According to Edwards, without the progress of having fathers at home, we can’t have mothers’ progress at work. 

Phill Wolfenden from CISCO added that technology “somewhat” helps. Video conferencing tools, although not perfect, can fight social isolation, he said. The pandemic gave some control to women as well, Wolfenden said, as they do not have to commute to work and can save time. More and more services and resources are becoming available online, he noted. 

Although technology might help, does it actually work for everyone? Are services and resources available online for all age groups? Peter Lacek from Citi Poland discussed the banking aspect: 

“Perhaps it’s important to not just rely on technology to solve the problems of banking for elderly people in the society. Perhaps the answer is having more services available to be performed by phone”. 

Peter Latek, Citi Poland

He also said that maybe more women in the technology field could show how to use technology to make things better for elderly caregivers. When it comes to product design, maybe women naturally have a different way of looking at it than men, he mentioned. 

“As organizations, we need to get ourselves to the point where you actually see technology through the lens of a woman. And my experience is actually quite different”, said Merrion Edwards from Corning, later in the discussions. “And until we see that (…) we don’t actually see the gaps, and we don’t actually see the areas that make it hard for women, and that’s what we have to do”, she said. 

The panel was followed by a short presentation by Shefali Gera representing Goldman Sachs. Gera commented on the trends surrounding diversity and inclusion during COVID-19 and shared steps that the company took to address some of the challenges.

Watch the full video to learn more.

Summary by Joanna Socha

Edited by Diana Asatryan, Phyllis Budka

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