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12.01.20

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Boston

BY , Christopher R. Froeb

Our recent program on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Boston brought together an esteemed group of panelists who shared their time, insights, and strategies about how we can all work toward a more equitable workforce and community.

 Speakers:

  • Karilyn Crockett, Chief of Equity, City of Boston
  • Deborah Hughes, President & CEO, Brookview House
  • Ingrid Jacobs, Chief Diversity Officer, Eaton Vance
  • Dani Monroe, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Mass General Brigham
  • Rekha Chiruvolu, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Nixon Peabody LLP


We were honored to be joined by these amazing leaders. Below are a few of the takeaways from our conversation that resonated with us.

Racial inequity is a public health crisis.

This is hard work that requires institutional change within our economic, educational, health, environmental, housing, government, and corporate systems.

A change in people's behavior is the key to affecting this change, and it starts with the behaviors exhibited by leadership. Leaders need to ACT and stand up to racial injustice in their organizations. They need to help constituents find their voices and become advocates for systemic change. Dani Monroe said, "I find the hardest part of this work is behavior change. We could do the policies. We could write the systems. We can create the structures. But, until leaders behave differently it doesn't change."

Karilyn Crockett spoke of the "incredibly important role our government plays in calling out black and brown people's needs, values, refining their values, and taking accountability when government gets it wrong."

A key to affecting change is to not only have a statement or policy on diversity, have a strategy.

Deborah Hughes shared statistics from a study conducted in 2019 that showed that 52% of nonprofits have a statement about diversity, equity, and inclusion but only 30% have a strategy. One overarching challenge Deborah pointed out is that even with the power of supporting data, diverse representation on nonprofit boards has not changed much over the past 15 years.

Ingrid Jacobs pointed out that a critical element to any strategy should be analytics. Examine and analyze the data of your workforce. What does your organization look like from a demographics perspective? How does talent flow through your organization and what is the process for promotion? Who are you servicing if you're a customer-based organization?

Finally, don't just interview diverse candidates—hire them! Dani Monroe said, "It's that simple. What's complex for the individual hiring is their own internal attitudes around people who are different than them." Organizations can and should provide the tools, but the onus is on individuals to educate themselves about racial equality.

And while an organization may have a policy about diversity, Karilyn said, "culture eats policy for lunch all the time." We need to normalize conversations around race and dismantle the status quo in order for change to be effective. Dani pointed out, "there's a lot of resistance to these changes because there is a lot embedded in maintaining the status quo."

We must think about generational change and what we will have learned throughout this period of crisis.

We learned to collaborate together in this pandemic because our lives depended on it. Field hospitals were set up in a week, entire companies became virtual overnight. Ingrid noted, "these are changes no one would've thought were possible prior to March 2020." We need to attack racial equity with the same urgency and strength. "It is within all of our power to make the changes we want to see," she said. It's a matter of understanding the weight and the gravitas of the situation, and figuring out what the forcing action is.

Karilyn added, "we have to do the work now and refuse to be small, even as precarious as this moment is." We can't wait for perfection. Dare to be super uncomfortable for as long as it takes to make change and do not let up. Now that the real work has begun, in order to keep momentum, we have to continue to go forward through action, commitment, and continued learning. "If it feels like it's easy, then we're addressing the wrong thing," Karilyn said.

While there is still so much work to be done, we are inspired and hopeful that we can and will continue to affect change within our own firm, our communities, and ourselves. We look forward to partnering with our clients and friends in the city of Boston to continue having these conversations and working toward our common goal of dismantling systemic racism and creating greater equity, inclusion, and social justice in our communities.

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Author

Kathleen Ceglarski Burns

Partner

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Author

Christopher R. Froeb

Partner

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