Racism. Image. Reality. Solutions
A better Boston? The choice is ours
Saturday, December 16, 2017
The series was reported by Andrew Ryan, Nicole Dungca, Akilah Johnson, Liz Kowalczyk, Adrian Walker, Todd Wallack, and editor Patricia Wen.
Illustrations by Jawaan Burge
5. Set tough diversity goals, and enforce them
By Andrew Ryan and Akilah Johnson
Diversity doesn’t happen by accident — or with merely good intentions.
Real change requires teeth.
But if you look around the city, there are glimmers of progress.
Massport did more than talk about diversity. The port authority went beyond a minimum hiring benchmark for workers. It made diversity 25 percent of the evaluation score for development bids on Massport-owned land, making it a key part of whether a firm won the award. The sweeping new policy emphasizes firms owned by women and people of color.
“This is larger than some quota on a job,” said Massport board member L. Duane Jackson, who spearheaded the initiative. “This is a game changer. It says to the rest of the world, if you want to develop some of the most valuable real estate in this country, then you have to consider diversity as a component of your team.”
Often, goals requiring “women-owned” or “minority-owned” firms have been window dressing that have had little real effect. But at Massport, the first project — a 1,000-plus room Omni hotel — involves black investors, black architects, a black-owned construction firm, and other companies owned by women and people of color. The bidding requirement pushed executives beyond their traditional networks to form new partnerships that expanded opportunities beyond the hotel.
A push for diversity will also be part of the bidding to build on land in Chinatown owned by the Boston Planning and Development Agency. That diversity component does not go as far as Massport’s, but it stipulates that strong inclusion plans will give proposals an edge.
Some advocates have pushed for City Hall and Governor Baker to follow the lead of Massport and adopt diversity components with real consequences.
In Boston’s nonprofit world, The Hyams Foundation started with itself. The organization works to improve racial, social, and economic justice in low-income neighborhoods. But until 15 years ago, the trustees controlling the foundation’s $134 million endowment for racial justice were mostly white.
The Hyams Foundation revamped its board of trustees, but it took a decade before they were predominantly people of color. Now the organization asks the same of its grant applicants. Jocelyn V. Sargent, the executive director of the foundation, said it’s an important factor in how and who gets funding for their proposals. An applicant won’t be automatically disqualified if the organization has little diversity, she said, but the foundation makes it clear that this is a critical factor.
They also give some organizations funds to attend conferences that address diversity issues.
“We made the same request of our grantees as we were doing it ourselves,” she said. “It was: This needs to happen.”