Blog & Resources

Diversity is an Active Verb

In an ideal world, company staffs would be a direct reflection of the communities they work in.  People would have access to the same opportunities and would be rewarded for the work they do, regardless of how they classify.  No matter race, religion, orientation, or gender – we would all have the same potential for success.  ‘Equal opportunity employment’ would be more than a formality; it would be an action.

Our present landscape paints a different picture.  In fact, a recent study shows that the working class will be mostly nonwhite by 2032 – which means the access gap is only getting wider. 

In Boston, roughly 52% of residents are women, 25% are black, 16% are Latino/Hispanic (now often referred to as Latinx), 9% are Asian, and 5% are LGBT-identifying.  Not a lot of Boston companies look like this.

Many companies, however, are realizing that a growing divide exists between company and community, and are working actively to make a difference. 

On Fortune’s 2017 list of the Best Workplaces for Diversity, 100 U.S. companies were acknowledged for their efforts to make a company culture that is more inclusive of women, people of color (P.O.C.), and LGBT employees.

Of those 100, two are Massachusetts companies:  Bright Horizons Family Solutions (#62 on the list) and Liberty Mutual Insurance (#80). 

Get Konnected! compiled a list of 15 companies in Boston that have a board of directors consisting of at least 50% women or people of color.  The best companies, as it turns out, are either financial organizations, tech companies, or in healthcare/insurance and pharmaceuticals.  For example, Avid Tech, the top entry on the list, has eight directors, and of those eight, four are women and two are men of color – i.e. 75% of their ranking-level employees are either women or people of color (or both).  

Also appearing on the list are iRobot, Tufts Health Plan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA, and Eastern Bank. 

This year, the Human Rights Campaign – i.e. the largest national LGBTQ rights advocacy group – ranked 609 employers throughout the U.S. who achieved a perfect corporate equality index (CEI) rating in the U.S. based on five sets of criteria:  1) non-discrimination policies, 2) employment benefits, 3) public commitment to LGBT equality, 4) responsible citizenship, and 5) organizational competency and accountability around LGBT diversity

and inclusion. 38 of those perfectly-rated companies are Massachusetts-based, including: AthenaHealth, Biogen, Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA, Eastern Bank, Harvard Pilgrim, John Hancock, Liberty Mutual, Raytheon, State Street Corp., Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Tufts Health Plan. 

This year, Needham-based TripAdvisor scored a 90/100, which is a huge improvement over the 20-point CEI rating they received in 2017.  The vast difference in those two ratings tells the story of an 18-year-old company choosing to more actively pursue diversity. 

Waltham-Based aerospace/defense contractor Raytheon, on the other hand, has achieved a perfect equality rating from HRC for the last 14 years in a row

When it comes to human progress and inclusion, Raytheon are pioneers:  in 2002, they were the first in their industry to create a benefits policy which included domestic partners; in 2005, they were the first defense company to receive a perfect CEI rating from the Human Rights Campaign; and in 2016, they were also the first to offer paid parental leave benefits to every employee. 

If social progress isn’t convincing enough to inspire change, perhaps money is; a study from the UK found that discriminatory pay practices cost the UK economy £127 billion ($178 billion) every year. 

Another study, conducted by researchers from MIT and George Washington University, found that gender-diverse teams are empirically more productive, and that going from a single-gendered team to one that is equal parts male and female resulted in a 41% revenue increase. 

Either way you look at it, the lack of workplace diversity doesn’t make dollars or sense.

While some companies haven’t quite leapt out of their chairs to adopt more inclusive hiring practices, many more are addressing the need.  Evolutionary growth is a slow process, but it does take a certain willingness to get the ball rolling.

How can a company that hasn’t historically been inclusive, start that ball rolling?  According to Susan Gordon, Former Chief Diversity Officer for the United States Army: “Companies can start to become more inclusive by educating their senior leaders to link inclusion to their strategic plans and to effectively leverage the benefits that diversity of thought (i.e., increased creativity and innovation) brings to their organization.”

Gordon, who appeared on the Hollister panel Diversity & Inclusion At Work on May 2nd, said a lack of awareness 

is ultimately what holds a company back from embracing more inclusive hiring practices.

“Senior leaders are very smart and good people,” said Gordon.  “However, many leaders simply are not aware of the value and benefits that an inclusive environment brings to their organization or how to effectively build and implement an effective D&I strategy.”

“We have to do our part about being more intentional about our hires,” said MA Secretary of Labor Rosalin Acosta.  “The more diverse your company is, the more successful it will be.”

Acosta is a strong proponent for helping Massachusetts companies get better at embracing a more diverse workforce.  One of her proposed solutions to the diversity gap is to start making apprenticeship programs more accessible for students from underrepresented communities, so that they too can receive necessary on-the-job training that will make them employable post-graduation. 

“One of the things our education system (pre-kindergarten to Grade 12) does not do, is give these students the right exposure, kids don’t know what they want to do at those ages,” Acosta said.

Because of this disparity of access, she said, 80% of people in apprenticeship programs are white males. 

A local advocacy group called the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) proposed a series of practical solutions to help fix what they identify as “the justifiable reputation of Boston being the most unwelcoming city for African-Americans.”

One of their recommendations was for a strong supplier diversity program for state contracts exceeding $100,000, which will open the door for more black- and Hispanic-owned businesses – which tend to employ a diverse workforce –  to have a voice in the marketplace.

“We need everyone to work together to make Massachusetts a more inclusive economy,” said the group’s representatives. 

Harvard University Commencement (Law School) 

Last year, Harvard University’s undergraduate class was a majority nonwhite for the first time in it’s 380-year history.  

“To become leaders in our diverse society,” said Harvard spokeswoman Rachel Dane, “students must have the ability to work with people from different backgrounds, life experiences, and perspectives.”

An unprecedented 50.8% of Harvard’s 2021 class consists of students from various minority groups, and of those, 22.2% percent are Asian, 14.6% are black, 11.6% are Latinx, and 2.5% are Native American or Pacific Islanders. 

Supporting Harvard’s mission to build leaders in a diverse society, this year, the University enlisted a Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, which outlined a series of guiding principles and initiatives to help keep the University on track. 

“The responsibility of building community does not alone belong to a task force or to a university president; it is incumbent on all of us to do our part, to reach across difference, to find ways to ensure that every person on this campus has the chance to find intellectual, professional, and social fulfillment,” said former Harvard President Drew Faust.