Minorities underrepresented in Hub corporate leadership

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

“Boston has had a tough history as we all know. But we are now a majority minority city and we are really at a turning point and that is why all of us need to collaborate together,” she added.

As suggested by the Commonwealth Compact studies, and by others that track diversity in Boston, one sector that has had success in delivering on diversity is higher education.

Schools including Boston College, Cambridge College, Emerson College, UMass Boston and Wheelock College all have people of color in high profile positions.

Emerson joined this list in July 2011 when Marvin Lee Pelton became president of the college. Pelton has driven diversity efforts at the school not only with his presence but also by launching the college’s Inclusive Excellence Initiative a year into his tenure. This initiative gave a directive to the school to improve and establish a university-wide effort for diversity and inclusion.

Sylvia Spears, Emerson’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, said Pelton’s support from the top gives her the backing to take action that makes the college’s diversity efforts more than just a policy written down somewhere and have actually changed the faces — both faculty and students — that call Emerson home.

“I think Emerson is doing something that not many institutions are doing by putting in place the structures that will help the greatest growth in this area,” Spears said. “I think leadership is key — and the commitment of leadership to commit resources to efforts that are the right things to do.”

Emerson’s diversity efforts span not only recruitment of faculty and students, but also training and leadership development for current employees, and intercultural development for students.

“We have to create conditions that allow all members of our community to thrive. It is easy to recruit them into the setting, but they need help to survive,” Spears said. “That is what it takes for the diversity stuff to really have any power.”

According to Spears, the aim is for diversity and inclusion to become part of the culture of Emerson and she believes that is key to success in an educational world that is becoming increasingly diverse because it helps make the college a place welcoming to faculty and students from all backgrounds.

“For us the diversity and inclusion work is fundamentally connected to teaching and learning on our campus,” she said. “It really is something that is becoming the bedrock of the institution and I really think that is the only way you can positively affect diversity and inclusion.”