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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:
Staying the Course in Uncertain Times

March 24, 2020  | by George Suttles

COVID-19 | Diversity | Responsible Investing

The times we are living in are unprecedented. On March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the spread of COVID-19 constituted a global pandemic. Currently, in the U.S., the virus has officially spread across all 50 states, forcing many cities and municipalities to put measures into place in order to protect the populace. Social distancing, sheltering in place, business closures and other measures are being employed to mitigate the spread of the virus to more vulnerable members of the population. Due to this pandemic, the markets are reeling, having fallen 30 percent from its peak in just a few weeks.

During times of financial distress, many institutions tend to disengage from important Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives (DEI). For example, during the economic crisis of 2009, while some colleges and universities held on to gains made with DEI efforts, many others cut resources to support DEI initiatives.[1] Also, in the for-profit sector, many firms that had made strategic investments in DEI work cut jobs and initiatives meant to support those efforts. When times are good, institutions in the for profit and nonprofit sectors focus on DEI, but when there is distress and uncertainty, often DEI initiatives and departmental budgets that support the work are frozen or slashed.

It is understandable that DEI initiatives might be perceived as “nice to have” when times are good, but the reality is they are even more important when social and economic conditions are uncertain. New research shows that DEI efforts present a potent source of strength for organizations as they weather tough times.

In 2019, Great Place To Work, the global experts on workplace culture, discovered that publicly traded companies with highly inclusive workplaces thrived before, during, and after the Great Recession, and gained on average a 4x greater stock return than the S&P 500.[2]

Great Place To Work also considered employees’ abilities to innovate, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders. In addition, the ranking measured the diversity of the company’s overall workforce as well as across management, senior leadership, and its board of directors. This latest research adds to the evidence that workplace equity is not only the right thing to do, it makes firms more resilient, more innovative, and is ultimately better for business. Research done by the National Council of Nonprofits shows similar advantages. Nonprofits that focus on DEI and do it well are higher performing and are better able to advance the nonprofit’s mission, innovate programmatically, and engage more diverse donor demographics.[3] These advantages benefit nonprofits when times are good and also make them more resilient when social and economic conditions impact funding, programming, and operations.

More diverse and inclusive firms, institutions, and organizations are more resilient, better able to innovate, and keep employee morale and engagement high during times of distress.

In this time of Corona, social distancing is what is being asked of all of us, but really, it is more a matter of physically distancing ourselves. Socially, in a lot of ways, we are more connected than we have ever been. COVID-19 is not an economic issue, a racial issue, a gender issue, an age issue, an LGBTQ issue, it is a collective human issue.

We are still in uncertain times, and the collective strides we are making on DEI are more important than ever before, we must stay the course. By including, honoring and activating the many perspectives, ideas, and identities that we all bring forth, we will take care of business, take care of each other, and weather this storm together.

 

 

 

 

Endnotes:

Above the Law, Recession’s Impact on Diversity Initiatives, 2010

WE Magazine For Women: Diversity in a Recession, 2010

Fortune, New Study Reveals Diversity and Inclusion May Be The Key To Fighting the Next Recession, 2020

HR Dive, Diverse, inclusive companies have an advantage during recessions, study finds, 2020

[1]Diversity Takes a Hit During Tough Times, Chronicle of Philanthropy, 2009

[2] Great Place To Work: What we Learned-Our 2019 Workplace Research Highlights

[3] National Council of Nonprofits, Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matter for Nonprofits

Authors

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George Suttles supports Commonfund’s educational, market research, and professional development activities as Director of Research of Commonfund Institute. He also serves as a member of the Commonfund Diversity and Inclusion Office. Prior to joining Commonfund, George was a Program Officer at the John A. Hartford Foundation, an independent, national private foundation focused on improving care for older adults. Before joining the foundation, he was a Vice President, Senior Philanthropic Relationship Manager at U.S. Trust/Bank of America. In this role he worked with private and institutional clients on issues related to best practices in strategic grantmaking. Throughout his career, George has supported the philanthropic activities of leading nonprofits with a focus on healthcare and related missions. He is also a member of numerous nonprofit boards, including Odyssey House, Drive Change, and the Support Center for Nonprofit Management. Currently, he is on the Adjunct Faculty at the New York University (NYU) School of Professional Studies. George received a B.A. from Wesleyan University, an M.A. in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (IUPUI) and an M.P.A.  from Baruch CUNY School of Public Affairs.
George Suttles
Director of Research
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Disclaimer

Information, opinions, or commentary concerning the financial markets, economic conditions, or other topical subject matter are prepared, written, or created prior to printing and do not reflect current, up-to-date, market or economic conditions. Commonfund disclaims any responsibility to update such information, opinions, or commentary. To the extent views presented forecast market activity, they may be based on many factors in addition to those explicitly stated in this material. Forecasts of experts inevitably differ. Views attributed to third parties are presented to demonstrate the existence of points of view, not as a basis for recommendations or as investment advice. Managers who may or may not subscribe to the views expressed in this material make investment decisions for funds maintained by Commonfund or its affiliates. The views presented in this material may not be relied upon as an indication of trading intent on behalf of any Commonfund fund, or of any Commonfund manager. Market and investment views of third parties presented in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of Commonfund and Commonfund disclaims any responsibility to present its views on the subjects covered in statements by third parties. Statements concerning Commonfund’s views of possible future outcomes in any investment asset class or market, or of possible future economic developments, are not intended, and should not be construed, as forecasts or predictions of the future investment performance of any Commonfund fund. Such statements are also not intended as recommendations by any Commonfund entity or employee to the recipient of the presentation. It is Commonfund’s policy that investment recommendations to its clients must be based on the investment objectives and risk tolerances of each individual client. All market outlook and similar statements are based upon information reasonably available as of the date of this presentation (unless an earlier date is stated with regard to particular information), and reasonably believed to be accurate by Commonfund. Commonfund disclaims any responsibility to provide the recipient of this presentation with updated or corrected information. Past performance is not indicative of future results. For more information please refer to Important Disclosures.