Diversity and inclusion challenges in the face of COVID-19

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Since the start of this pandemic, we at Starkloff Disability Institute have done our best to deliver relevant content to help you hire, retain and promote people with disabilities.

We asked a few of your colleagues what challenges they’re facing regarding diversity and inclusion in the face of COVID-19. Here’s what they had to say:


Q: How is your D&I team contributing to your organization and your employees’ overall success during this pandemic? 

Terrie Hart, Workforce Diversity Manager at BJC Human Resources (TH): “Currently we are ensuring all communities are educated appropriately; in particular, people of color in identified zip codes and our LEP community.”

Rodney White, Director Diversity & HR Strategy at Nestlé Purina North America (RW): “The D&I organization has been assisting by generating ideas for our associates to share their feelings about how they are coping with the current situation.  Within Nestlé, we use the social platform Workplace by Facebook to communicate. This has been extremely helpful in providing updates and giving people an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings.  Soon, D&I will launch a campaign we’re calling Pause4PAWS, where we will ask associates to share how the pandemic has affected them using the 24 dimensions of diversity as topics.”

Angela Cody, Director, Inclusion & Diversity at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals (AC): “The D&I team took this pandemic as an opportunity to showcase our true value, which goes way beyond ‘fun, food and flags.’ The Business Resource Group and Inclusion Council leaders were used to pilot Microsoft Teams for the entire organization. We worked with Information Technology to get this project launched in record time and it is now being established enterprise-wide. In addition, we used the BRGs to provide input on policies, benefits and processes, because we know diverse perspectives are invaluable as the organization was responding to the virus. We have also taken this as an opportunity to launch a virtual coaching initiative and a mentoring program.”



Q: What best practices would you like to share with colleagues?

 TH: “Striving as to how to continue to engage in the D&I world of social distancing. I am hopeful we will learn a lot of the best practices of diversity in how we operate.”

RW: “Provide associates with a way to express their feelings.  Listen to what people are saying.  Provide for their needs in the moment.  Be gracious.”

AC: “This is an opportunity to shine and be a leader.  When we are in unchartered territory, we need to ensure all voices are heard. Diversity of thought has never been more important. Stay connected to your teams and engage everyone in the decision making process.”



Q: What concerns you the most? 

 TH: “That some organizations are not able to connect the dots in this pandemic, and the inclusion of the diverse needs of our community.”

RW: “When this crisis levels off, there will be a great need for more mental health resources.  Will we have resources available for everyone who will need assistance.”

AC: “I’m most concerned that after this is over, things will go back to “normal.” I want a new normal. I want to see the agility, flexibility and a “fit for purpose” mentality moving forward with us. I want to see people and companies caring for neighbors and watching out for one another.”



Q: What do you wish everyone would start doing or paying attention to today? 

 TH: “While I truly believe everyone agrees we are in this together I hope we all start paying attention to what that means as it relates to diversity and inclusion.”

RW: “Continue to pay attention to the medical experts.  The last thing we want to happen is a rush to getting back together, which may spark another outbreak.  Everyone should remain calm and continue practicing the mitigation strategies that are working to save lives.”

AC: “Pay attention to what is happening in your community. There are entire populations that are disproportionately impacted by this virus. The systemic racism in our systems is visible. Do your part to make a difference.”


Thank you to our partners in the corporate community for sharing their thoughts with us. Starkloff Disability Institute is the workforce, workplace disability advisor and we are still here to help. If you are looking for solutions to continue promoting a disability-welcoming workplace in the midst of this new normal, give our Workplace Advisors a call at 314-588-7090.



Terrie Hart

Workforce Diversity Manager at BJC Human Resources


Rodney White

Director Diversity & HR Strategy at Nestlé Purina North America


Angela Cody

Director, Inclusion & Diversity at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals

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