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TIAA Black Professionals Dive into the Impact of COVID-19 on the Black Community

Courtesy of TIAA press team.

As COVID-19 sweeps the world, its impact continues to hit hard on the black community in unique ways. Statistics and news reports show the disproportionate and higher rate that African Americans are falling to COVID-19 than other races.

Last month, TIAA’s Black Professionals Business Resource Group (BRG), Empowered, partnered with TIAA’s Inclusion & Diversity team and local health professionals to host a virtual panel discussion for its members nationwide about the impact of COVID-19 on the African-American community. The virtual informational session helped equip TIAA associates with important knowledge to help keep themselves, and their families and friends safe during this pandemic.

Led by Corie Pauling, Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at TIAA, three doctors were invited to share insights about how the virus has affected the African-American community, and how people can help combat the virus and its negative impacts through a call to action for employees. Dr. Kym Selden and Dr. Michele Griffith from the Charlotte area, along with Dr. Wright-Jones from Detroit shared background on the primary reasons and problems the black community encounters that make it more vulnerable to COVID-19. Black Americans are more likely to hold jobs that are considered essential and less likely to be able to work from home. According to a recent NPR story, they are also more likely to have underlying health conditions and may lack access to quality medical care. The doctors also shared tips about how people can stay safe and healthy in these uncertain times.

Corie Pauling’s call to action for associates came from her personal reaction to seeing her hometown of Detroit face a devastating death toll rise. Corie shared that this crisis truly hits close to home for her, and that she personally knows people who have succumbed to this virus. She challenged everyone to think about what they can do to help and how they can advise their communities. She committed to reach out to 60 people since 60 people died in Detroit on the day of the event. She encouraged associates to send personal messages to their networks, family, and friends. She believes sharing a message about COVID-19 prevention and protection can resonate more from people we know and trust. “Don’t underestimate the power of your voice…to influence family and friends,” said Corie.

She also encouraged self-care, so associates can be there for their team and their families in a safe and healthy way. TIAA has resources that all employees can use, including mental health resources, extended caregiver benefits and online educational tools for their families.
Solutions and Call to Action
At the end of the session, the experts offered solutions and recommendations that associates could reflect and act on immediately. The call to action from the event included:
– Encouraging employees to follow the safety guidelines for themselves and their families, and to pledge to encourage others in their community to do the same.
– The doctors recommended that the best way to protect ourselves and children is prevention.
– They strongly recommend following all the CDC guidelines, including washing your hands for 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, and social distancing, even if feeling healthy.
– They also encouraged wiping down frequently touched items in our homes, including toys, remote controls, etc.
– The doctors and TIAA team reiterated that seeking medical treatment is key to staying healthy, especially if people have underlying health issues.

TIAA associates responded that the program inspired them to reach out to their friends and families and to focus on preventive safety measures. The program was also shared with university clients to continue to raise awareness. This powerful effort is an example of how a strong commitment to inclusion and diversity can connect with and empower employees, clients and communities in abundantly critical ways.

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