The board of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau has come to its senses and will restart its search for a new leader.
That’s what I advocated for in this space a week ago as the right thing to do. This after we learned the bureau’s search process failed to turn up a single minority on its short list for a chief operating officer.
Bureau chairman and Red Sox executive Larry Cancro attempted to deflect criticism by explaining to my colleague Adrian Walker that in the tourism industry “there aren’t many people of color with a lot of experience.” I didn’t believe that for a second, and it took only a few phone calls to learn that the bureau’s search committee didn’t look very hard for diverse candidates.
If you are wondering why this matters, it’s because Boston has something to prove. We have been labeled the most racist city in America, and here we have an opportunity to show that we can hire people into prominent positions who reflect the Boston of today, one that is a majority-minority city.
Instead, the bureau search was classic old Boston, with the four-candidate short list made up of three white male hotel general managers and, in a nod to diversity, a woman from out of state.
The board, I am told, will now hire an outside firm or consultant to resume the recruitment this summer. Jim Carmody, general manager of the Seaport Hotel and the bureau’s next chairman, will remain head of the search committee.
I am also told that the bureau may now look for a chief executive to succeed Pat Moscaritolo, who at 73 is close to retirement after nearly three decades in the job. Moscaritolo is expected to depart sometime in 2019. The bureau had set out to find a chief operating officer, a new post whose occupant would have been Moscaritolo’s heir apparent.
This is what the board should have done in the first place. Bringing in someone from the outside would have provided a much-needed fresh perspective to the all-white search committee and forced the board to look well beyond its own networks.
This would be a better story if Cancro or Carmody would get on the phone to answer some tough questions: “How do we know if you’re serious about diversity? How hard will you look for diverse candidates? Can you commit to having at least one person of color as a finalist for the job?”
But neither Cancro or Carmody wanted to face the music and preferred to authorize an intermediary to update me on the details of the search process.
“It’s a good sign that they have suspended the search and started over. My only caution is that it has to be real,” said Colette Phillips, who runs Get Konnected, a networking group for minority professionals.
For starters, the search committee itself should be diverse. Phillips suggests even inviting people from outside to be part of the group. Phillips and Carol Fulp, who runs the Partnership that works to advance people of color, have both told me they’re willing and able to help. Neither was called in the first go-around for names of candidates of color.
Do I think Cancro and Carmody are that clueless about diversity?
No, but I think they are like a lot of people in this town who say one thing and do another.
Separate from the search for a new leader, the board has been considering hiring someone at the bureau who specializes in marketing to communities of color. The bureau does a good job in catering to international tourists, especially from China, but not to black or Hispanic visitors.
Yet when it came to the highest ranks of the bureau, the board did not see diversity as important.
We could ignore the hypocrisy, but then we’d never make any progress.
The board should commit itself to hiring a leader who reflects the Boston of today, one that is close to 55 percent people of color. The tourism bureau may be a private organization, but it has a big public profile. Not only can the right hire change the narrative of Boston’s racist past, but it’s also good for the bottom line.
A recent Globe Spotlight series on race made this point after gathering promotional videos from around the country and seeing how cities like San Francisco and New York highlighted their diversity as a reason to visit. Boston, however, portrayed itself as a haven for white tourists.
In other words, visitors of color are an untapped market for Boston, and millions of dollars are being left at the table.
By starting the process over, the board is showing it values diversity. Let’s hope it’s more than good intentions.
Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @leung.