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Updated: May 13, 2024 Opinion

Viewpoint: DEIB brings positive change

Amid a growing national backlash at diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives in the workplace and at educational institutions around the country, it is imperative to advocate for the profound importance of DEIB and its transformative effects on individuals and organizations.

A man with glasses smiles for the camera in a dark blue suit jacket, light blue button down, and pink and blue patterned tie.
Ken Bates

Our nonprofit human services agency’s efforts to incorporate DEIB into daily work have grown substantially over the last four years, shifting the organization toward an anti-racist culture.

DEIB serves as a cornerstone for nurturing inclusive environments, amplifying diverse voices, and fostering mutual understanding. By cultivating trust and facilitating dialogue, we not only foster collaboration and community but inspire innovative thinking. A McKinsey report from December underscores the correlation between diverse leadership and enhanced performance.

A man in a red shirt and black, purple, and orange patterned tie
Stephen Osei-Bonsu

This is especially important in the Mass. human services sector, which is rooted in making a social impact and is desperate to attract and retain workers. According to a 2023 report from the Providers’ Council, a statewide association, the human services sector employs more women, people of color, foreign-born people, and persons with disabilities than all other industries in the state. At the same time, a persistent workforce crisis in human services has the statewide job vacancy rate hovering at 20%.

Our organization’s refocused DEIB commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization was born out of listening sessions after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. These sessions showed the depth to which our staff was experiencing their own trauma, stress, and grief as they were working to help others navigate their behavioral, intellectual and developmental challenges. Staff asked that the dialogue continue, resulting in the implementation of the Committee Advancing Race Equity (CARE Team), which facilitates monthly DEIB discussions.

The outcomes we have seen affirm the positive impact of this work. Our agency has nearly tripled the number of BIPOC staff in leadership positions; seen a significant increase in applications from BIPOC candidates for mid- and executive-level positions; and addressed 100+ anonymously reported incidents, provided meaningful support to staff, and established a dashboard to allows incident data to be analyzed to direct discussions on policy and resources.

Advancing DEIB takes time, patience, leadership and care. The benefits, however, are tangible and vital, both for the individuals involved and the broader organization.

Ken Bates is the president & CEO, and Stephen Osei-Bonsu is the director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging at Worcester nonprofit Open Sky Community Services.

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