Given the pandemic induced changes in the way companies are recruiting talent and organizing around remote and hybrid work and the movement of talent away from the traditional major hubs, how can we seize this moment as an unprecedented opportunity to improve the representation of under-represented talent (e.g. Black, Hispanic, female) in the high skilled workforce sought after by tech and bio-medical companies? How can organizations locate these diverse talent pools in the major metro areas across the United States?
Pandemic-induced work-from-home policies—now slated to be in place for most of 2021, if not indefinitely—could serve as a catalyst for the tech industry to narrow its growing regional and demographic disparity; allowing more cities and demographics to contribute to and prosper from the industry’s economic growth potential. We examined this issue using metrics such as digital readiness, cost of living, and diversity of tech talent pools for a group of states and major cities in the US to assess whether pandemic-induced work-from-home policies could offer the industry an inclusive growth path forward.
The pandemic’s evolution and states’ varying policy responses have shown that digitally ready states benefited from both a labor force that could socially distance and work from home, as well as one that could support the delivery of essential services in such a scenario through the availability of gig workers. These past months have demonstrated the gig economy’s increasing importance in providing essential services to communities, while also highlighting the inherent disparities and vulnerabilities experienced by gig workers.
The two major political parties in the United States are in an all-out sprint leading up to the presidential election. Neither has had a shortage of digital mediums to amplify their views to the public. The American public’s increased reliance on social media as a source of news is worrisome because of the propensity of these platforms to spread misinformation. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this trend, tethering people ever more to their personal electronic devices and fostering a boom of both digital crime and misinformation.
In the US, women make 82¢ for every man’s $1––a significant disparity that is exacerbated by factors like race and education. As the pandemic rages on, women are bearing the brunt if it on multiple levels: 1) as essential workers on the frontlines; 2) being over-represented in occupations that are not conducive to working from home, and losing jobs crucial to their economic stability; and 3) being under-represented in jobs that could shift to a digital medium, and all this while paying the price of chronic pay gaps and an unequal division of household labor.
While contingents push to re-open, states have begun to reverse course as the virus surges to new heights. States with better digital readiness possess the capacity to endure longer periods of lockdowns, and those continuing to observe strict social distancing measures are better prepared to arrest COVID-19 transmission.
Pre-existing racial disparities in unemployment, digital access, and financial resilience have been exacerbated in COVID-19’s wake. Black communities have been disproportionately impacted––in mortality, morbidity, unemployment, and financial losses. As governments and businesses prepare to navigate the economic and public health repercussions of the pandemic, it is crucial to account for these extant inequalities to ensure inclusive recovery.
Having robust digital platforms are key for business and public services continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Kentucky and Washington both witnessed over a third of their workforce file for unemployment between March and mid-May, the latter state is better equipped to: 1) allow its employed workforce to work from home with low disruption; 2) enable unemployed workers to potentially shift to work that allows them to work from home; and most importantly, 3) support unemployed workers in their search for jobs and to seamlessly file for unemployment insurance online.
While states have been quick to expand telehealth policies in response to the pandemic, there exists a disconnect between policy action and the infrastructure available to support access. Sixteen of the 34 states with expanded telehealth policies have below-average coverage of broadband-speed internet connectivity—a major impediment to digitally administered healthcare.
Urban-Rural Divides: The Uneven Experience of COVID-19 Across the States | Digitally ready states, which were able to implement strict social distancing and visibly reduce COVID-19 infection rates, also had an overwhelmingly urban population with greater opportunities to work, educate, and interact in a socially distant world.