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Workforce diversity should matter as much as profits

Boston Scientific CEO Mike Mahoney spoke at Hubweek.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff/file

No public company is required to report on the diversity of its workforce, but some local firms are doing just that.

Thank you. And by the way, it’s about time.

By sharing numbers and posting them on their websites, companies put the onus on themselves to make sure women and people of color are being hired and promoted at rates that they are either proud of — or vow to improve. According to a 2017 Fortune magazine survey, only 20 percent of the Fortune 500 companies release numbers of any kind about the gender or race of their employees.


My hope is that diversity statistics will become a new category of bragging rights — beyond profits, stock prices, and the size of CEO paychecks.

Studies have shown that companies with diverse workforces are apt to deliver above-average financial returns.

Consider what we know about the diversity of some of the most prominent companies in Massachusetts in 2018:

At TJX Cos., the parent of TJ Maxx and Marshalls, women held 44 percent of management posts globally (vice president and above). Women also earned, on average, 78 percent of the promotions over the past three years.

At Vertex, women held 38 percent of senior leadership positions (vice president and higher). People of color accounted for 30 percent of the workforce at the Boston life sciences company and 20 percent of senior leadership. Four of the nine members of the Vertex board are diverse by gender or ethnicity.

 At Hubspot, 56 percent of the workforce was male, while 48 percent of its vice presidents were women. People of color made up 20.5 percent of the workforce at the Cambridge tech company. Of the new hires in the United States, 72.8 percent were white.


At ezCater, 54 percent of employees are female, and people of color comprised 21 percent of the workforce. The Boston business caterer also reports diversity survey results: 73 percent of its employees agree or strongly agree that “ezCater is a diverse workplace.”

At Boston Scientific, 51.2 percent of new hires globally were women, and 42.6 percent of new hires in the United States, including Puerto Rico, were people of color.

Women accounted for 38.4 percent of managers at the Marlborough medical device maker, and people of color comprised 19.6 percent of the management team. Four of the 10 board members are diverse by gender or ethnicity.

So why would a company volunteer to report on the diversity of its staff?

“Since we were lacking some progress, we felt like making it public and making a clear stance within our employee base, that this is important; it would force new strategies in order to deliver those goals, and that’s in fact what has happened,” Boston Scientific’s CEO, Mike Mahoney, told me on Wednesday at HubWeek, Boston’s annual festival of ideas, taking place in the Seaport District this week. I had a chance to interview Mahoney onstage as part of the confab’s C-Suite Conversations series.

Boston Scientific began reporting diversity data last year as well as publicly setting goals known as “10/20/40” by 2020.

That means the company will be recognized as a top 10 leader for workplace inclusion (such as by appearing on Working Mother magazine’s list of best companies or the Disability Equality Index’s Best Places to Work list); increase representation of people of color to 20 percent at the supervisor and manager levels in the United States, including Puerto Rico; and increase representation of women globally to 40 percent at the supervisor and manager levels.


Being publicly acccountable has made Boston Scientific step up its effort to recruit young African-American and Hispanic engineers by deepening its relationships with historically black colleges. This past summer, the company brought in 75 black and Hispanic interns.

“If we didn’t have those specific goals in place and a focus on it, those strategies to recruit wouldn’t be as robust,” Mahoney said.

By reporting diversity numbers, Mahoney added, the company stands to gain — it “helps us attract talent . . . it’s that important that we’re publishing it.”

But could setting numeric goals feel like establishing quotas?

“We get that question a lot,” he said. “We don’t view it as quotas.”

Mahoney said he thought that measurements were necessary if he wanted employees to think about diversity and inclusion as much as they think about innovation or growing the company faster than competitors.

Otherwise, he said, diversity would feel like “a nice cause.”

Among local companies, HubSpot perhaps offers among the most detailed diversity reports, at 17 pages long.

It breaks down the workforce by race, gender, and age, and then slices by department (such as engineering and marketing), leadership, and new hires. The company has been sharing its diversity data for the past three years.


Katie Burke, HubSpot’s chief people officer, said that when a company makes diversity numbers public it can be easy to fixate on the metrics. She cautions against falling into a “check the box” mentality.

“This is an inherently human opportunity,” Burke said. “If you are looking at one number, one metric, one team, you are doing it wrong.

“You have to constantly reflect and empathize on what you can do better or differently to make more people feel a sense of belonging at your company.”

Releasing diversity data is more important than ever, and more companies should make it a habit. Just as important is knowing what to do with those numbers.

Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @leung.