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Updated: September 5, 2022 editorial

Editorial: Give diversity & inclusion efforts the opportunity to succeed

In the two years since countless Central Massachusetts businesses pledged to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion at their organizations, it is increasingly apparent which ones have truly committed to the effort vs. those who were just putting out well-meaning statements in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

As many firms have discovered, this is really hard work. Changing company culture takes time and persistence, especially with an issue as complex as institutional racism, and as you're trying to improve DEI at your organization, it must compete with other priorities for attention. In hiring for a position, for example, do you go with a very intelligent candidate with a different background and experience than the rest of your team - someone who will make your employee base more diverse and better in the long run - but will need more time and training to get up to speed for the job? Or do you go with the more seasoned candidate who doesn’t contribute to diversity to your company’s workforce, but can hit the ground running with a shorter anticipated ramp up time?

Even for those organizations who have been able to infuse more people of different races, genders, ethnicities, experiences, sexual orientations, and gender identities into their workforces, it is still a matter of using that diversity to make your business stronger. DEI is more than a numbers game, and if your organization is going to reap the benefits more diverse companies have over time achieved, you have to place value on all the perspectives and experiences your employee base brings, even if that includes non-traditional solutions to problems and having some uncomfortable conversations.

The City of Worcester government has had a chief diversity officer role since 2016, yet it has been unable to keep anyone in that position for much more than a year. The last CDO, Stephanie Williams, left abruptly at the start of this year, saying in her February resignation letter City leadership acted as if diversity and inclusion work is an extracurricular activity. Rather than fill her role right away, Acting City Manager Eric Batista, who is also the interim CDO, had racial equity audits completed for city departments, and he and the audit company are set to make those findings public to the City Council on Sept. 20. We applaud Batista’s desire to actually put in the work to figure out what’s been going wrong with the CDO position, and we hope the council and all City leadership take those findings to heart and initiate the changes necessary to make DEI more ingrained in the culture of the city government.

Much like the City of Worcester has done, we all ought to take a hard look at what is working and what isn’t with our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in order for them to have a meaningful impact. The region’s economy won’t achieve its full potential until the best and brightest are given equal opportunity to make their mark on the business community. There’s still a long road ahead, but this important work is worth the struggle.

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