Essay: As we rebuild the economy, we should recommit to diversity

Photograph by Naomi Wilson.

By Dave Roughton

By some indicators, there’s reason to hope California is on the path to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. State revenues are performing above expectations, the State Department of Public Health is implementing its framework to ensure residents are vaccinated, and small businesses have seen restrictions loosen as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide continues to fall.

While these indicators are welcomed news, we should be aware and sensitive to those communities that experienced devastating damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Tragically, many lives have been lost and much of the thriving job sectors we enjoyed pre-pandemic will take many years to return. As a society, we must do our best to help all our communities recover in any way we can—the virus is certainly no respecter of persons. However, it’s important to keep in mind the destruction caused by the virus has unfortunately had a disproportionate impact on the health and economic wellbeing of communities of color.

According to research conducted by the Center for American Progress, workers of color are overrepresented in many low-wage jobs that are most vulnerable to layoffs during the pandemic. In addition to that fact, are the daunting figures that show Latino and Black residents are three times more likely to contract COVID-19. You don’t have to travel far to see these impacts—they’re demonstrably clear right here in the Greater Sacramento Region.

Therefore, it’s important that as we rebuild the economy, businesses that have fared better, and those who are fortunate to rebuild, need to continue their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This will require creativity and regional partnerships that are in the best interest of our communities.

One such partnership exists between SAFE Credit Union and the Sacramento Metro Chamber. This partnership will provide, free of charge, training courses with new corporate culture indicators and survey tools—developed by Sacramento-based human resources company Emtrain—to businesses in the Greater Sacramento region. The goal of this partnership is to help business of all sizes recruit and maintain diverse talent.

Committing to diversity is ethically and morally the right thing to do, but it’s worth stating that businesses who make firm commitments to diversity typically enjoy better bottom lines and foster higher levels of innovation. As Sacramento often ranks highly on the list of America’s most diverse cities, it only follows that businesses inviting diversity to the workforce will enjoy the benefits.

This is not to say that these aren’t trying times—they certainly are. And we know that estimates peg California won’t return to “normal” for about two years. However, corporate and social responsibility is about people helping people, and standing in the gap when there is no obvious or immediate policy solution. I hope businesses will take up the mantle of committing to diversity as we stage the great California comeback.

Dave Roughton is Chair of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce and CEO of SAFE Credit Union. He can be reached at

Dave Roughton

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