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Boston’s diversity shortcomings hurt employers. A Chamber event aims to help

September 24, 2018

Boston has a reputation as a city that’s unwelcoming to people of color. Over the next few days especially, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce is focused on trying to change that.

The Chamber is in the middle of a six-day series of events called Fierce Urgency of Now: FUNinBOS Festival. Running through Tuesday, it features more than 40 events in all, meant to explore the challenges faced by millennial minorities in Boston and what the city and its business community can do to be more welcoming to that group.

The festival has its share of workplace-focused events, such as a panel at MFS Investment Management’s headquarters on Tuesday related to career paths in the financial services industry. But many of the events are just plain fun — including a concert in the Museum of Science’s planetarium featuring the Boston hip-hop group STL GLD.

There’s a higher purpose to that fun. Young people of color are sometimes reluctant to commit to Boston long-term because they don’t feel there are enough venues or cultural offerings in the city meant for them, said Sheena Collier, the chamber’s director of economic growth and managing director of City Awake, the organization’s program for young professionals.

“That seems to be a consistent theme — access to space where people feel comfortable and want to gather,” Collier said.

For businesses hungry for young talent, especially diverse talent, it can be frustrating to create what they see as a diverse workplace only for promising young employees to move out of Boston because of a lack of culture. Partners Healthcare has lost its share of talented workers to other cities, Partners Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Dani Monroe said.

“If they don’t have that sense of comfort where they live, they’ll just go other places,” Monroe said. “If you’re a person of color and you’re skilled and talented, you have options today that you didn’t have 30 years ago.”

FUNinBOS aims to change that dynamic in a few ways. The chamber and the festival’s organizers are hoping that by highlighting dozens of venues around the city that embrace that culture, young millennials will be more aware of those places going forward. Collier said that until FUNinBOS, people she's spoken with had no idea that the Museum of Science regularly hosts hip-hop and R&B groups.

Organizers are also hopeful that the festival itself will bring change to the city. Collier said that employees of the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, the location of a FUNinBOS kickoff event, told her that organizing the event was an eye-opening experience to the barriers sometimes faced by people of color when it comes to permitting, for instance.

Upcoming FUNinBOS events include a mixer at Monday’s Major League Baseball game between the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles — by coincidence, the team whose outfielder, Adam Jones, was subject to racist taunts last year at Fenway Park — as well as an interactive workshop at the Boston advertising agency Allen & Gerritsen about the next generation of workers, Generation Z. 

The chamber and the festival’s organizers hope FUNinBOS creates lasting spaces for people of color. “You can’t just do this week. This is the start. This is not the conclusion,” A&G CEO Andrew Graff said.

Read this piece online.