In 2020, Boston will host the NAACP’s national conference. When the nearly 10,000 NAACP delegates arrive from across the nation, we want them to find a more diverse and inclusive city — the emerging “New Boston.” To be recognized as a community that embraces diversity is more than simply laying out the welcome mat — it is a critical step in attracting and retaining the talent that will drive innovation and make our companies even more competitive.
For more than 32 years, The Partnership has been uniting Boston’s professionals of color and the corporate worlds. As the professional service organization committed to increasing the number of multicultural professionals at all levels of organizations, we can attest that the business community is playing a significant role in shaping and building this New Boston.
To cite a few examples: State Street Corporation has incorporated diversity metrics into both their bonus structure to incentivize managers and their substantial proxy voting powers to influence companies in their investment portfolio. For Eastern Bank, diversity and inclusion has been central to its growth into the country’s largest mutual bank and the state’s largest community bank. And Massport has become a national model for ensuring inclusion at every level of the development process, including equity participation, professional services, and workforce development.
Many Bostonians will recognize executives of color such as Corey Thomas, chairman & CEO of Rapid7; Mo Cowan, president of global government affairs and policy at GE and head of its Boston operations; Paula Johnson, president of Wellesley College; Dean Seavers, CEO of National Grid US; and Manny Lopes, president and CEO of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center.
These best practices and executives reflect a changing Boston. People of color make up more than 55 percent of the population. Since 1990, according to The Boston Foundation’s recent report “Changing Faces of Greater Boston,” an additional 256,000 Asian-Americans, 158,000 African-Americans, and 350,000 Latinos are now our neighbors. The city is getting younger, and millennials — more than 40 percent of them people of color — are driving the diversification of the workforce.
But significant challenges remain. The racial wealth gap reflects that we have yet to translate the diversity of the New Boston into a truly inclusive economy. As cited in The Boston Globe’s Spotlight series on race in December 2017, the average net worth of a white household is nearly $250,000. For the average Puerto Rican household, it is only $3,000, while the average African-American household’s net worth is a staggeringly low $8.
Our region’s most successful companies recognize that creating corporate cultures where diverse professionals thrive is a business imperative. Study after study concludes that diverse organizations are more innovative and more profitable, faster at developing new products, opening new markets, and responding to changing customer demands.
Building inclusive corporate cultures and developing the talent to succeed within them does not happen by accident. It starts by making Boston a place where professionals of color want to establish roots and build their careers. The work involves engaging employers from every economic sector as they take deliberative actions to create attractive and supportive working environments for everyone.
At The Partnership, we do this by attracting, developing, retaining and convening professionals of color — providing leadership development programming as well as a nurturing and supportive community. This has helped ensure individuals are reaching their full potential at every stage of their career. We work with managers and executives to prepare them for the leadership challenges faced by all organizations as a result of changing racial, gender, age and cultural demographics in the 21st century. After all, recruiting and developing talent is wasted effort if our companies are unable to leverage it.
Every member of Boston’s corporate community has a role to play in making inclusion both a corporate priority and an engine of innovation. This starts by recruiting and retaining talent of color at every level of our organizations — from board members to early-stage professionals. That is a commitment our entire business sector must be willing to make now.
As the home of innovation and possibility, certainly we can use this upcoming year to take the necessary steps to closing the wealth gap. We can focus our efforts on investing in and advancing Boston’s talented professionals of color — ensuring everyone is able to participate and contribute to our economic success story. And through these steps, we can make sure the New Boston is proudly represented when the NAACP arrives for its national conference in 2020.
Marcy Reed is chair of The Partnership, Inc., president of National Grid Massachusetts, and executive vice president of Policy & Social Impact for National Grid US. Carol Fulp is president and CEO of The Partnership, Inc.