In a conversation on “The Intersection of Caregiving and DEI,” leaders in healthcare, business, caregiver advocacy, and social work share their perspectives about how family care challenges create inequity at work. The discussion closes with practical strategies for companies wanting to take their culture another step forward in being an inclusive and caring workplace.


The discussion brought together healthcare expert and CEO of Grayce, Julia Cohen Sebastien, Eventbrite’s CHRO, David Hanrahan, senior employer advisor for AARP, Tricia Sandiego, and expert care partner at Grayce, Amanda Santiago, LMSW. 


Read on for our top 5 takeaways from the webinar: 


Q1: What are the biggest ways that caregiving detracts from equity and inclusion?


Studies show family care creates inequity and barriers for every ethnicity, gender, generation, and sexuality in the workforce.

  • African-American and Hispanic populations spend 33% more time caregiving than their white counterparts.
  • One in two caregivers are young people under age 50.
  • 71% of full-time employees quitting or reducing work are Millennials and Gen Z.
  • One in five LGBTQ+ community members become caregivers, compared to one in six for the non-LGBTQ+ community
  • LGBTQ care recipients are more likely to live alone and in poverty resulting in higher care loads for their caregivers. 


Julia Cohen Sebastien, healthcare expert and Grayce CEO:

“For example, certain ethnic groups are more likely to have single-parent households or higher prevalence of divorce, and that can lead to higher likelihood of having family caregiving. They may have lower fewer financial resources. There may be disparities that are leading to greater prevalence of chronic illnesses or greater cultural expectations around family bonds or who’s expected to be providing care in the family…Honestly, I could go through stats all day long, but the bottom line is every single person who’s showing up at work every day is bringing their home with them. That means that people are bringing very different loads to the office and challenged to show up in an equitable way.”


Tricia Sandiego, senior employer advisor for AARP: 

“It’s not traditionally thought of as a DEI issue, but it absolutely is in a couple different ways…The stats that Julia shared highlight there are disparities both racial and ethnic – minority-wise, age-wise, what level you are in the organization, gender issues, and income…We have a saying that if you’ve met one caregiver, you’ve met one caregiver, and that’s because they are so diverse. The age of the care recipient, the condition that the person has that you’re caring for – It could be your own [care] situation. Are you a long-distance caregiver…Everyone’s situation is so unique.”


David Hanrahan, Eventbrite CHRO: 

“It’s very clearly linked to DEI when you think about [how] the pandemic gave rise to alarming numbers of women and underrepresented employees leaving the workforce. Primarily, they shoulder caregiving responsibilities – and that’s a societal issue in terms of the unequal burden of caregiving, but in the U.S. we still don’t have paid family leave at the federal level…I’ve heard this from employees quite a bit in my role throughout my career, which is, ‘Hey, thank you for the parental leave benefit, but my situation is caring for an aging parent. How can you help me with that?’ Increasingly I’m hearing more of those. So if you find yourself in this predicament, you’re left with this kind of Sophie’s choice of ‘Do I keep my job and fail at caregiving or do I go provide care to a loved one, but then risk losing my job?”


Q2: It’s been incredible to see companies prioritize mental health, leave, and financial support with things like LSAs, but we’re still seeing employees with caregiving responsibilities report stress levels as high as ever. What have you found to be their greatest needs?


With data collected by Ipsos, Grayce conducted a national survey on the State of Caregiving to uncover the current state of family caregiving, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their impact on the employee experience. Data showed the most prevalent challenges working family caregivers struggle with are: 


  1. How to cope with caring for a loved one
  2. Knowing what to do for a loved one
  3. Having the time to help care for a loved one
  4. Having the money to pay for a loved one’s needs


Julia Cohen Sebastien, healthcare expert and Grayce CEO: 

“We see four top issues people want help with. It’s having that emotional support, and not just having a general therapist to talk to, but having someone to talk to who knows what they’re going through and knows how to help them address those challenges, where you can actually learn some of the things that you may need to be doing so that those elements are less stressful. Having the time to do it, whether that’s in terms of leave policies or flexibility or potentially having some support resources that can take some of that off an employee’s plate. Then you have subsidy programs, where it might make sense for employers but backup care doesn’t always solve things in and of itself…Take the example of financial subsidies. If say someone’s in a nursing home – which by the way, the prevalence of using nursing homes is disproportionately a Caucasian topic, you might have someone who’s at home and needs 24-hour care, and that’s $200,000 – 250,000 a year. That makes student loans or childcare costs seem cute by comparison, right?”


Tricia Sandiego, senior employer advisor for AARP:

“Paid leave is great and we’ve traditionally thought of that as the gold standard, but sometimes, the dedicated leave is to help care for a loved one. But sometimes you need that leave for yourself. Sometimes I’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m gonna take a day off and I’m gonna do this, this, and this for my dad and my mom, and then I’m going to pick up the kids’ and that’s not a day off. So the ability to be able to rely on support and use benefits offerings to help out with some of the other things so that you truly could take a day off or truly have a day of respite or rest, I think is very critical for mental health.”


Amanda Santiago, LMSW and Grayce Care Partner: 

“I would say that the greatest need is time for rest, and that looks like rest for their mind and rest for their body. Rest only comes from having the ability to have leave, which means having the financial ability to keep your life afloat, having access to resources to maintain your healthcare – your health and your loved one’s health, access to services to help subsidize the cost of care…So having an outlet to share that experience with someone else as well as having the ability to rest in their own way – in the ways that work for them, helps them continue to get up each day.”


Q3: What can companies do to improve this equity issue, especially as the workforce becomes more global? What does caregiver inclusion look like in leave policies, benefits, recruitment practices, development strategies, and leadership training?


David Hanrahan, Eventbrite CHRO: 

“Flexibility – a cultural signal from the top. Your policies, that you can take the time you need to attend to caregiving needs. You know, parental leave is very different than an ongoing leave to care for a dependent with a chronic long-term illness or an elderly parent who relies on you, who’s going through the aging journey. I’ll share this on a personal level but from the moment my mom was paralyzed to the day she got into a nursing home to her last day was around 10 years. It was over a decade. That’s very different than 9 months or a year on the parental leave journey. You know, when you have someone who is paralyzed and you’re having to adjust to getting them in and out of bed, getting them to doctor’s appointments, juggling between you, your brother and your dad. Just having the flexibility in your employer is really key – it’s that signal that this is important. It helps de-stigmatize it that you know your employer really believes it, family first.”


Tricia Sandiego, senior employer advisor for AARP:

“Everyone has a role to play in changing and having a more accepting workplace culture. But I think the frontline supervisors really have a very critical role and we are all keeping a very close eye on that, especially in the hybrid work workplace and the more flexible workplace. I think managers are going to be the ones to kind of make or break it. You can have the best policy in the world, but if a manager does not feel empowered to be able to allow a team member to take advantage of the benefits and the leave, or if their hands are tied and they won’t be able to meet business objectives, or they’re not able to reprioritize business objectives and they need the workers there, they’re in a tight position.”


Julia Cohen Sebastien, healthcare expert and Grayce CEO: 

“In terms of approaching things like flexibility, approaching things like manager training, approaching things like benefit programs that are put in place, approaching a number of these things. You know, you could go through every single one of these. So with leave policies, how do you do that in more of a holistic way?


Well, you can start with some of the programs that exist out there, like CFRA in California and say, ‘How is that a model of something that looks a bit more innovative and how can you take that and try to take that forward?’ Frankly, we’ve even done that for our own company at Grayce.


When we put forward a family leave program we aimed for that to be gender neutral. We aimed for that to be birth status neutral. We aimed for that to be broader caregiving scenario neutral. We aimed for that to support the mixture of whether you’re focusing on baby bonding or whether you might have reasons to step away more frequently because it might be more of an ongoing caregiving scenario.


In some cases people will then need bereavement leave, right? So grief comes in waves and not everyone is going to need one contiguous block. So how do we also approach that? I know we didn’t get it perfectly right, and I know we’re going to learn from that as we go along, but how do we make sure that more broadly in the culture, we’re tracking all of that?”


Q4: Ok, now that we know how diverse this community is and how it can detract from well-being, why prioritize this issue?


David Hanrahan, Eventbrite CHRO: 

“Again, the elderly population is going to eclipse the child population in the coming years. So, holistic family care support I think is going be something that, like mental health previously or recently fertility, have come up as important needs that we’ve seen from talent, from candidates. Caregiving is huge and I think it’s a big opportunity that if you don’t proactively come out swinging, that you’re prioritizing this, you miss out on a lot of talent, really great talent who otherwise would’ve been joining your company but don’t see it as a priority.”


Tricia Sandiego, senior employer advisor for AARP:

“We know that 73% of all employee populations are likely to be caregivers. At the same time, whether or not the manager or the HR people or the company knows they are a caregiver is a totally other issue….One of my takeaways on how this is a DEI issue is that many employers have stepped up and have done a lot in terms of accelerating support for parents of young children or people who are adopting children. A lot of benefits have been a little bit more focused on that type of caregiver population, which is great. The strides that have been made in terms of maternity leave, and parental leave are all things that are good things to have. We’re seeing elder care slightly catch up to that, especially during the pandemic, but it still continues to lag behind. So for us, our message is that it really behooves the employer to think about equitable benefits that will help all types of caregivers in your organization knowing that there is that disparity. By doing that you elevate your employee population to become a more engaged, more productive, more loyal group of workers.”


Q5: We’re seeing a wave of demand from employees for family support – what’s the cost of ignoring inclusive family care support? How can companies figure out where to start?


David Hanrahan, Eventbrite CHRO: 

I find there’s a really powerful moment if a CEO or someone on the executive team who’s gone through this to have a chat, have a fireside chat and open up. You know, talk about, ‘How have you gone through this? Tell me about your journey.’ You get all these people raising their hands, ‘I’m going through this right now,’ or ‘I just went through this too, and here’s what I wish we had.’ And I say that fireside chats thing because it’s a very similar thing that happened in the mental health space where the moment that leaders started opening up and talking about it, you just had this sea change of programs and companies approach to it when they opened up the conversation.”


Julia Cohen Sebastien, healthcare expert and Grayce CEO: 

“It started informally with fireside chats. I think there’s been more investment in things like ERGs, right? This recognition that we need to open this up from the concept of parents to families and create those informal and formal spaces for people to start talking about it. I think there’s a long way yet to go in terms of how we engage – not just HR business partners, but managers in this conversation of, ‘Hey, how do you spot these signs before somebody even says it?’ Because we see in the data, people are not gonna talk about it until it’s comfortable, right? Then how do you start proactively engaging them and supporting them?”


“When we don’t say ‘caregiving’ and we just talk about whether you’re helping a loved one, guess what? Men come forward a lot more often. When we don’t necessarily label whether someone is providing physical care as the only definition of caregiving, then guess what? Men are providing a lot more support as well…If you’re going to survey in a formal way or use your HRIS system, how do you ask people perhaps if they are helping a loved one? Define those activities. Don’t ask people if they’re a caregiver because people are going to say, ‘Yeah, I’m a parent.’ But I’ve had conversations with people for an hour where they tell me all the caregiving activities that they’re doing and they say, ‘Yeah, but I’m not a caregiver. That’s who I hire.’ This from someone who just moved his mother into his home.”


If you want to see more insights from this conversation, watch the full webinar recording here.