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Minorities underrepresented in Hub corporate leadership

Martin Desmarais | 1/22/2014, 10:53 a.m.

“We are fighting the perception because we want people to live here. I live here and I love it,” she added.

The Partnership, a Boston company that helps professionals of color find high level jobs, has been fighting the diversity battle for over two decades, working with several thousand job seekers and several hundred of the city’s biggest companies. Carol Fulp, president and CEO of The Partnership, says that the message the company sends is about the importance of diversity, but also about its necessity in order to compete in business today.

“We approach the issue of diversity from a global marketplace perspective. This is about business. If you want to market globally you have to have individuals in your company that understand these different cultures,” Fulp said. “From a business perspective your workforce and customers are going to be diverse so it only makes sense that your workforce will reflect that diversity.

Fulp points out that estimates suggest that by 2050 the United States population will be 30 percent Latino, 13 percent African American and 54 percent people of color overall. The Partnership tells businesses they had better be prepared to reflect the makeup of the population in their workforces.

However, she also points out that Boston already reflects the future diversity of the the United States as it is now a majority minority city — and the business world in the city has nowhere near caught up.

One thing she cautions against, like Meléndez, is thinking that just hiring people of color to entry-level positions in a company is enough. She says that large corporations across all industries do a pretty good job of diverse hiring at the lower levels of a company; the problem is diversity at the executive level and, particularly, providing an inclusive environment in which workers of color can move up the corporate ladder.

Companies also come to The Partnership to help them improve their workplace environment to support diversity, and Fulp says the first thing the organization does is suggest leadership development that supports people of color at all levels of a company. “Our goal is to have programming at every level of the organization, from interns all the way up to senior executives,” she added.

“Yes, Boston is a majority minority city and we certainly see that from the individuals in corporations,” Fulp said. “We want to make sure that people of color have very strong leadership skills to be able to move up the corporate ladder.

“It is like a pyramid, everybody comes in qualified with strong technical skills but who moves up that pyramid to the top are those with leadership skills.”

According to Fulp, more and more companies are starting to get the message about diversity and its importance, not just as a social justice issue but as a business issue that is necessary for a company to thrive.

“I think diversity is just good management,” Fulp said. “It is understanding that in order to have good innovation I can’t have people who all look alike at the table — I have to have different perspectives. You want to attract the best and the brightest of all ethnicities.