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Business

Lighting The Spark – Community Leaders & Changemakers

“Practices of the old are not going to attract the talent of the new,” said Nina Pande, executive director of Skills for Rhode Island’s Future (SkillsRI). “Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a pronounced voice.”

Pande shared insights about how SkillsRI helps employers in reimagining recruiting for diverse candidates by questioning current practices and holding them (employers) accountable.

She was one of the special guests on the Lighting The Spark – Community Leaders & Changemakers panel hosted by the Verizon State Government Affairs team; moderated by Adriana Dawson, Community Engagement Director at Verizon. 

The program was held last month as part of International Women’s Day (March 8), a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. Pande and other guests are trailblazing women across the country driving change in their communities. From ending hunger to creating new educational and career opportunities to opening doors for small business owners, these women are helping their communities thrive.

A Target 12 analysis of labor statistics from 2018-2020 found that almost an equal number of men and women were employed in Rhode Island when the first COVID-19 infection was identified, reported WPRI.

By April 2020, amid sweeping shutdowns, employment plummeted 25 percent for women, while declining only 8 percent for men. Since then, male employment has largely recovered, while the number of women employed in Rhode Island remained 11 percent below pre-pandemic levels.

Since the COVID-19 began, Latinas have not only experienced disproportionately high unemployment rates, but they also are dropping out of the workforce at higher rates than any other demographic group.

A report published by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative reveals three main drivers to changes in the number of Latinas in the U.S. labor force since the beginning of the pandemic:

  • Latinas are disproportionately responsible for family care obligations versus Latino men, and they are more likely to stay at home than U.S. mothers of other racial backgrounds. That burden was exacerbated during the pandemic because of the closure of schools and day care centers.
  • A lack of access to education and training opportunities for higher wage opportunities disincentivizes Latinas’ participation in the labor force overall.
  • Latinas are disproportionately employed in leisure, hospitality and related low-wage industries that were particularly vulnerable to pandemic-related closures.

Dawson also hosts US Tech Future, a Verizon-led community-focused initiative working to engage the local community in a discussion about technology and how it can improve the lives of local residents for their benefit and the benefit of the community as a whole.


Adriana Dawson (she, her, hers, ella) is a nationally recognized leader with over 20 years of demonstrated impact at the intersection of community and business development.

Adriana leads the Verizon Foundation and social impact programming efforts in her markets. In this role she leads and expands Verizon’s partnership network, strategic investments, and collaborates up and across the business introducing new market opportunities. She is also the Partnerships and Volunteer Global Committee Lead for SOMOS, an enterprise-wide Employee Resource Group (ERG) giving voice to Verizon’s 4K+ Hispanic/Latinx employees.

Ms. Dawson, a first generation Colombian American, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Northeastern University and holds a Master of Arts in Management Communication from Emerson College.

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