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Additional Q & A Not Adressed During 5th Anniversary Breakfast


   Thanks to the 400-plus who attended our annual breakfast. We are grateful for your participation – and we enjoyed your company.

   One of many highlights was the panel moderated by Paul Watanabe, chair of the Political Science Department and director of the Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass Boston.

   The panel took some questions from the audience, but ran out of time with several still unanswered. Because we want to honor the questioners, and because the questions were excellent, we would like to share them, with our responses:

    Procurement – what are the challenges regarding diverse vendor contracts. How can boards influence these contracts?

    In general, two steps are required. The first is to recognize the problem; the second is to be “intentional,” to borrow Governor Patrick’s word, in doing something about it.

   One of the first responses to our initial Benchmarks survey, “Stepping Up,” came from an organization that said completing the survey confirmed that it was performing well in most areas, but also revealed that it had no effective policy in hiring diverse suppliers and vendors.  The organization promptly moved to create such policies.

   Often, longstanding relationships with large firms that can outbid small shops mean it is hard for diverse suppliers and vendors to break in. But the value of diverse companies may be considerable – a more responsive relationship, exposure to new markets, etc.  It just takes extra effort to find the right fit.

    What about geographical diversity? The board and committees of Commonwealth Compact are very Boston-based. Large employers such as Mass Mutual, Baystate Hospital and Smith & Wesson to name a few are not community partners. What is the plan to reach out to other parts of the state?

   A very good question.  In addition to many members in Greater Boston, Commonwealth Compact has good participation in the Merrimack Valley, and some in other parts of the state, but not nearly enough.  The Compact is definitely a statewide initiative and we plan to redouble our efforts to recruit members from all parts of the state. One element of our strategy is to use each of the various UMass campuses as a base of operations. Any help in this effort from existing supporters would be greatly appreciated.  We have recently made a couple of trips out to western Massachusetts to be intentional in our recruitment.

     Can the audience share with us the statistical number of minorities in their respective organizations?

     Too late for the audience, but we agree that measurement is important and that numbers drive action.  That is why we have put considerable effort into the Compact’s three Benchmarks reports.  Let us relate one specific experience: the top management of a local firm, about 18 strong, gathered one day in the corporate dining room.  All were white.  The CEO said: now I want each of you to think of your top deputy – not someone you might be grooming to succeed you some day, but the person who would step in tomorrow if you were hit by a bus.  OK, how many of those people are of color?  Not a single hand was raised. The point was made.   

    How diverse and open are your companies when considering minority college graduates?

   It would have been good to hear the panel on this. Our experience suggests that attitudes vary enormously.  Unfortunately, some companies, and their h.r. departments, still operate under the assumption that applicants of color need to go the extra mile to prove their competence – an essentially racist approach, which Governor Patrick was very honest about at the breakfast.  Other employers, though – including many members of the Compact – recognize the true value of diversity, not just that it is the right thing to do morally and culturally, but also that it adds fresh perspective, a range of experience, knowledge of market opportunities, enhanced collegiality and numerous other benefits to any enterprise.

    Paul [Watanabe] has asked about a “standard.” How can we become more cognizant that white privilege is that standard, and discuss how many whites fear losing it? But sharing power can be transformative for whites, in a good way.

   The question supplies its own answer, very articulately. We would only add our firm conviction that sharing power is not only good for individuals, but for society as a whole, and specifically for the economy.

    When a white male says that it’s time we move beyond color (with the assumption that he really “gets it”), do you agree?

   No.  It is true, and a source of joy in this context, that our president and governor are both African American. And without a doubt the tone of race relations in Massachusetts is far better than it was 40 years ago.  But too many sectors are still lily-white, or nearly so, unemployment among persons of color is unacceptably high, and not only do racial gaps persist in education, health outcomes, wealth and many other indicators, but many are actually widening. This is not a situation to move beyond.


A Conversation with Governor Patrick and Georgianna Melendez, Executive Director of Commonwealth Compact

This conversation takes us through what it was like to implement the mission of diversifying our leadership in state government in Massachusetts. Governor Patrick talks about why, how, challenges and surprises.

From a 2010 CEO Corner Interview on NECN

While this was filmed in June of 2010, the message is still true. Forgive me for my initial brain freeze…television can make one nervous, though I am much better at this now. Thanks to Bob for the save.

CEO Corner video click here

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“Firing employees for racist behavior – what would you do?”

What would you do?  It is a question employers  face every day.  Some take action and some do not.  Which are you?

In the past few weeks we have read about a Leominster police officer, John Perreault, being investigated for allegedly yelling a racist remark at baseball player Carl Crawford.  That investigation turned up an apparent pattern of public racist comments.  He was fired.

Then, Paraskevi Papachristou, a Greek triple jumper, was expelled from her Olympic Team for a racist tweet.

In yet another instance, Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella was expelled for posting a racist message on Twitter.

All of these individuals are, in their respective fields, public figures. All are role models. Their stories send a strong message and a recurring reminder that what one does — whether as a private citizen or on the job — can have devastating effect on employment status.

What would you have done?  As an employer, given a similar scenario in your workplace, what would you do?  How much responsibility or opportunity do you see in this?  What specifically would prompt you to react?  What specific type(s) of action would you take?

Why do you think some employees get fired, some get slapped on the wrist and others experience no consequences for similar behavior?

With social media, our personal lives and our work lives collide in ways that we have never had to deal with before.  It makes us more vulnerable and exposed and yet it adds a layer of responsibility on employers.

We are interested in your responses.

Best Practices in Cross Cultural Mentoring

By Phyllis Barajas

What we understood about talent in the work place, how we identify “­high potentials”–those designated as the heir apparent– are changing as the pipeline of talent is shifting from majority to minority/women.    The 2010 Census confirms that more metro areas than ever are becoming minority majority cities.  Boston continues to be a majority minority city and growing with 53% of the population non-white or Hispanic and 47% white non-Hispanic.

As more professionals of color and women enter the workforce and move up to middle management our assumptions about how our companies and organizations identify, select and mentor will need to be reassessed and new approaches adopted. Greater attention must be paid to how these matches are made and the individuals prepared for a mentor relationship. Traditional mentor/mentee matches have been majority / majority.  Implicit in this dynamic is the assumption that they have more in common, (i.e.  shared values, way of looking at things, and approaches to the work effort).

Mentoring with Fixed Assumptions. We look at the world through our own set of perceptual lens that color how we see things and what we believe to be true.  For many majority culture mentors their own experience with diverse professionals has been limited. One mentor recently noted that he had never met or interacted with “a person of color until I left the state I grew up in to go to college” and he went on “my career in the financial industry has not afforded me many opportunities to meet and get to know very many diverse professionals”.

Win-Win Mentoring Dynamic.  How then will this experience or lack thereof add to or inhibit the ability of a mentor and mentee to establish rapport or trust? Both are necessary if they are to explore the mentee’s potential.  The door this question opens up can lead to a positive experience in which TWO WAY mentoring occurs.  Mentees get a first-hand view at the mentor’s experience, skills, advice and professional networks while the mentor learns about the mentee’s mindset, environment and perspectives.  When pairs are from different cultures, mutual learning is amplified as they both need to become aware of each other’s dominant culture and incorporate it in the mentoring experience.

In the end, a two-way mentoring approach, grounded in a cross-cultural experience,  provides a more relevant leadership development strategy that will effectively address the needs of a rapidly changing talent pool.

Understanding, Reaching and Servicing the Hispanic Market

by Eduardo Crespo

(remember to RSVP for this session taking place 8/4)

There are many critical issues that must be dealt with before a company or institution decides to enter or expand in the Latino market. Rushing to translate ads is wasteful and embarrassing at times. This workshop presents a practical framework that begins with a historical perspective and ends with recommendations for “transitioning” to meet this new opportunity. The premise of this workshop is that, “business as usual”, is no longer valid to be successful in this market.


The framework is multi-dimensional and will benefit visionaries and thought leaders that work in leadership and management positions. Functional areas that are addressed include: branding, research, planning and forecasting, marketing, sales, PR, communications (offline and online), HR, diversity, customer service, training, community relations, and foundations.


 – Understanding the market from a practical perspective.

– How to identify and deal with biz and HR implications when transitioning to a non-monolingual organization.

– What is the upside market potential in relationship to the Hispanic market?

– Reflections on “Why should we change if we have been profitable all these years”?

– Hispanic vs. multicultural strategies, what will work for you?

– Should you communicate in English, Spanish or Spanglish?

– Assimilation vs. acculturation, an ongoing dilemma.

– Practical advice to avoid mistakes in rushing to tactics without doing due diligence.

– Cultural and linguistic considerations when servicing Hispanics.

Making Supplier Diversity Work

By Milton Benjamin

One of the goals of diversity inclusion programs is to provide opportunities for diverse populations to succeed in achieving personal financial goals, including financial stability and the accumulation of assets. There are many types of diversity programs within organizations that help individuals reach their objectives, including recruitment programs, training and development opportunities, and mentoring, all of which help individuals grow within the organization.

Supplier diversity programs have the same ultimate goal of providing enhanced opportunities for diverse companies to grow and achieve economic success. The interesting thing about a successful supplier diversity program is that it not only helps an individual business owner achieve his or her goals, but there is a multiplier effect in that a successful company hires more people and helps a community become stronger economically. We have found that those purchasing organizations that are committed, build a supportive infrastructure, and monitor execution achieve success.

What is the business case for supplier diversity? Using diverse suppliers can bring innovation, competition, pricing that produces savings for purchasers and profitability for suppliers. The changing demographics of our region and our country demand economic participation in ways that afford growing minority populations opportunities to acquire assets and in turn feed the local economy. Strong minority companies also are the source of new leaders who give back in ways that further strengthen communities.

How do organizations develop a successful supplier diversity program? There are many ways to go about it. A supplier diversity program is successful when various levels of an organization are involved. Each area may have its own objectives for its part in the program, but it takes a coordinated approach so that all internal objectives are achieved. As with any goal, commitment, communication, measurement and a strong connection to suppliers are key attributes of a successful program. Commitment starts at the top; communication throughout the organization and with suppliers must be effective; training and mentoring have an important role; key measures and monitoring are critical.

How do organizations and suppliers come together? This question also has a number of answers that depend on who in the organization is driving the supplier diversity effort. Purchasing Managers have an essential role, as they are the ones who most often interface with suppliers, even if they do not make the ultimate buying decision. Front line managers who do make buying decisions also can connect directly to suppliers. In many organizations with strong commitments to supplier diversity, there are Supplier Diversity Managers who develop relationships with suppliers and make introductions to the front line purchasers. A supplier needs to know how a particular organization works in order to find the best connection to open doors.

INE plays a significant role in helping suppliers and organizations committed to supplier diversity meet their objectives. In our workshop on the 28th we will have a dialogue with participants about their questions on supplier diversity and provide some insights on best practices, making the business case for supplier diversity, and how we can help an organization with developing a supplier diversity program.