Responding to COVID-19: A DEI Centered Approach

By Noor Bokhari, Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity Program Coordinator

As we navigate COVID-19, it is critical that we continue to support our diversity, equity, and inclusivity efforts in businesses. The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance notes that more than 2 million Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders work in health care, transportation and service industries and are facing xenophobic and racial discrimination in the workplace – because of COVID-19. Similar stories across the nation should give us pause as we ensure that our DEI-values are not suspended.    

On April 23, 2020, we had an opportunity to virtually engage with Dr. Douglas Haynes, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the University of California – Irvine, in a conversation on why it’s important to keep DEI at the forefront of your organization during the pandemic. Below we have pulled highlights from the webinar:

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected America’s narrative?

The narrative of how we want to see ourselves as Americans and how we are have changed due to the pandemic. Health and emergency first responders are being recognized for putting others health and security above their own. Civil society is mobilizing to support first responders as well as vulnerable populations. Inclusive messages are being articulated such as “We Are in This Together”, to bring the community closer together. We recognize the challenges and difficulties we may be facing individually, and this message signals we are in this together as a collectivity and that the future will be bright.

How can we navigate this pandemic without losing traction in our efforts for DEI?

Our response to COVID-19 highlights the importance of how our businesses can strengthen the fabric of our society by helping and supporting each other. However, this will not happen without the organization taking on a DEI approach. A DEI-centric approach in an organization builds personal growth, equips individuals to be agents of change and resilience, and provides more purposeful decision-making. 

As we begin to return to work, how can we best ensure equity, inclusivity, and respect for everyone regardless of how they choose to return to work?

Organization leaders should recognize the disruptive nature of the pandemic, the unsettlement of our patterns, and the uncertainty of the present and fear of the future. They should remain in contact with their community and workforce and as employees return, there should be a process of embracing them back into the organization. Double down on DEI because we want to actualize the narrative of what we America to be. A place of business where we recognize courage and articulate a common message of inclusivity. Let’s use this moment of bringing people together to talk about how diversity is a strength and how we want to promote a workplace environment where people are supported, affirmed, and feel welcomed.   

The biggest takeaway from Dr. Haynes presentation was that although this pandemic has changed the way society functions, it is important that we do not lose traction in our diversity, equity, and inclusivity efforts.  A DEI-centric approach strengthens the fabric of our businesses and society as a whole. 



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