The business case for maintaining diversity in a recession

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A person wearing a face mask walks past a mural by french photographer JR on April 20, 2020 in New York. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Jennifer Morgan is out as co-CEO of SAP, Symone Sanders runs the Biden campaign from home, and don’t let this downturn ‘drain’ your diversity. Have a good Wednesday. 

– Diversity in a downturn. The current economic crisis in the U.S. that’s seen some 22 million lose their jobs in a four-week span has been especially brutal to women.

According to March data, the unemployment rate for women rose 0.9% while that of men ticked up 0.7%. Sixty percent of the 700,000 jobs eliminated last month belonged to women. One factor here is that women are overrepresented in the types of jobs being slashed—service industry positions in hospitality, travel, and retail, for instance. Another factor is women’s seniority. As Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute told NPR last week, “labor market discrimination” has “led disproportionate shares of women in jobs that may be more subject to job loss.” They are less likely to be managers, who are more likely to keep their jobs in rounds of layoffs, she said.

Writing for HBR, Alexandra Kalev, an associate sociology professor at Tel Aviv University, says that based on her research, executives have determined who’s getting laid off based on either position or tenure and “drained diversity”—in terms of race and gender—from their teams as a result.

Executives argue that their layoff criteria is about job function and is “color blind,” Kavel writes. But as she puts it: “[J]ob titles are not color blind, and so layoffs aren’t, either.”

Kavel has tips for how leaders can avoid slashing diversity as they try to cut costs. “Redeploy talent to areas that need strengthening” is one piece of advice.

And 2019 research from Fortune and partner Great Place to Work explains why the stakes for such consideration are so high—beyond individual livelihoods. Examining publicly-traded companies during the Great Recession, the research found that the experience of certain key employee groups—women, people of color, front-line workers, hourly male workers, and long-tenured employees—”predicted whether organizations flatlined, merely survived, or thrived during the  [downturn].”

The S&P 500, for instance, saw a 35.5% drop in stock performance in the period between 2007 and 2009, while companies whose key employee groups had very positive experiences reported a 14.4% gain.

This downturn, of course, is different than previous ones, but that data point—that the treatment of marginalized workers can be a bellwether—is one to keep top of mind.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Teamwork doesn't make the dream work. Less than six months ago, SAP veteran Jennifer Morgan became co-CEO of the German business-software company. Now, Morgan is out as co-CEO and leaving the company entirely as the firm transitions to the leadership of a sole CEO to take "swift, determined action" during the coronavirus pandemic. Wall Street Journal

- Invest from the best. In the May issue of Fortune, five veteran investors give their best advice on how to approach the stock market right now. Learn from Cartica CEO Teresa Barger, Parnassus portfolio manager Lori Keith, Charles Schwab chief investment strategist Liz Ann Sonders, and ARK Invest CEO Catherine Wood. Fortune

- 💯. Stacey Abrams, Ariana Grande, and more public figures are backing Project 100, a fundraising effort to distribute $100 million to 100,000 low-income families hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis. The drive has so far raised $55 million. Fortune

- Home stretch. Joe Biden campaign strategist Symone Sanders gets the Vogue treatment. She's grounded in D.C. for the longest stretch she's spent at home in a long while, running a virtual campaign and finally getting around to hanging her framed photos of Thurgood Marshall and Shirley Chisholm. Vogue

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Drift promoted Dena Upton to chief people officer. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Fair working conditions. Nurses and teachers—two professions dominated by women—are fighting for better working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. New York's nurses union filed three lawsuits against the state health department and two hospitals alleging that inadequate protective equipment compromised the health and safety of nurses; a health department spokeswoman said she cannot comment on pending litigation. Teachers' unions, meanwhile, are fighting for restrictions on the number of hours and days spent conducting virtual lessons and against the requirement that all lessons be conducted live. 

- Unpausing protests? During the coronavirus pandemic, the protests that took over Hong Kong last year have slowed. But the government, led by Carrie Lam, has recently arrested pro-democracy protesters, while officials in Beijing have pushed for new national security laws—moves that could spur protests to pick back up again. New York Times

- Good night's sleep. Arianna Huffington and Audible founder Don Katz write in Fortune that helping people get more sleep—the mission of Huffington's Thrive Global—will help underserved communities. The "sleep gap" is another health disparity, among the many health inequities that contribute to higher rates of COVID-19 spread in minority communities. Fortune

ON MY RADAR

Michelle Obama launches weekly reading series for children NBC News

I’m working 14-hour days to develop the coronavirus vaccine Refinery29

GM shuts down car-sharing service Maven The Verge

'Some days I feel like I'm melting:' How single mothers are coping with quarantine New Yorker

PARTING WORDS

"The truth is, we’re always cooking with some constraints. We just don’t realize that often constraints are a gift."

-Chef Samin Nosrat on how quarantine can help people become better cooks 

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