No one will argue that Boston still has a long way to go to erase its image as a city that can be unfriendly to minorities.
But the business community can take a leadership role in addressing the problem.
Just ask Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jim Rooney. The chamber’s latest initiative under his watch is a festival in September called Fierce Urgency of Now, with panels and other programs aimed at bringing together and helping millennials of color.
The list of participating businesses includes everyone from the Red Sox to ad agency Allen & Gerritsen to Vertex Pharmaceuticals. They’ll host events throughout the city. Some, like a mixer at Fenway Park, will be fun. Others, such as a financial services panel hosted by fund giant MFS, will be more serious.
It may seem like a superficial thing, a big five-day party. But there’s nothing superficial about connecting individuals from different walks of life, and helping them navigate their respective fields.
The chamber is taking other steps as well. It is already expanding its Pacesetters program, a new matchmaking effort to connect large companies with minority contractors. And it’s developing a pipeline for students who come from community colleges and lesser-known universities, to ensure a more diverse mix of internship candidates.
Of course, other traditional business groups are trying to tackle the issue, too; some are wrestling with it for the first time. And several companies are looking beyond their HR departments for ways to make the city more inclusive and to build a better brand for Boston.
They’re not just motivated by altruism. One of Boston’s biggest selling points is its talented workforce. But our full potential won’t be reached until everyone feels like they can participate.