All Decisions Are Intentional

Juma Crawford, President, Lewis Family Foundation
Robert Lewis, Jr., Founder and CEO, The BASE

Published in the Boston Business Journal

Dear Boston Business Community,

All decisions are intentional.

The recent seven-part series on race by the Spotlight team of The Boston Globe was holistic, shameful and timely — but no one in this city should be surprised by the brutal truths revealed in the stories and statistics of those articles. If you find yourself surprised, you are either asleep, an active contributor to the problem, or both. Here are just a few of the sobering statistics:

$8 — The median net worth of a black household in Greater Boston vs. $247,500, the median net worth for a white household in Greater Boston

1% — The percentage of black board members of publicly traded firms in Boston

2 – The number of black politicians elected to statewide office in the past 50 years

7% – The percentage of black students enrolled in Greater Boston’s universities

Needless to say, the Globe did an excellent job of exposing the issues of racial inequality from the various perspectives of government, higher education and health care to name a few. However, the Globe went easy on businesses, the job creators of this city. As pointed out clearly and with dire numbers, economic class and race in Boston are linked — the argument for economic diversity is tightly fastened to the argument for racial diversity. You cannot address one without the other in this city.

All decisions are intentional.

The Boston business community is uniquely suited to address both of these issues because companies can provide jobs, the first step towards economic empowerment, while also breaking down the structural barriers for people of color to Boston’s growing economy. Having a job provides money, and being great at your job provides access to power.

So what role can the business community play in ensuring racial equity and access to the growing economy in Boston? A significant one.

If a company lacks diversity, it’s because that company is intentionally opposed to a diverse workforce. There are no other excuses. All decisions are intentional. Here are three things businesses can do right now to move from the comfortable dialogue around diversity and inclusion to the uncomfortable actions needed to solve the problem right now:

Treat diversity like money. Create ambitious diversity goals and fire those folks who can’t meet your goal. Research completed in 2015 by the global consulting firm McKinsey has shown that increasing diversity at your company has a direct correlation to increased profitability. Companies must start considering hiring for diversity as part of their bottom line. Too many times the first barrier to inclusion and diversity are human resources departments and executive-search firms who continue to pull from white, homogenous candidate pools. If your HR department is all white, shake it up. You must model what you hope to be. All decisions are intentional.

Ask nonprofit leaders and leaders of color for help. For-profit companies have a lot to learn from the nonprofit sector, and deeply partnering with high-performing nonprofit leaders as colleagues, and not charity, will only help companies increase the pipeline of diverse talent. Elect a nonprofit leader of color to your board. Have your leadership teams meet and connect with one another, break bread and share experiences. You both are running businesses. If you don’t know any leaders of color, expand your network. All decisions are intentional.

Invest in mentoring and sponsors at your company. Invest the time to not only listen but establish mentorship programming at your companies for associates of color. Bring associates together of all races and genders to discuss diversity and issues at your company. Partner them with mentors and sponsors in positions of leadership who are willing to advocate for them to get promotions and pull them up as they grow in their roles at the company.

Lastly, we must hold ourselves accountable. As a black president of a foundation, whose staff is 100 percent of color and is closely tied to two privately held, for-profit companies — Kensington Investment Company (35 percent staff of color, 40 percent women) and Grand Circle Corp. (20 percent staff of color, 57 percent women) — we recognize that we all still have a lot of work to do to solve this problem. I can promise that the Lewis Family Foundation will continue to invest in the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan and push our own company to continue to consider diversity as the bottom line. This year alone, with our nonprofit partners, we have created over $5.3 million worth of jobs for young people of color from these communities. We will not stop. All decisions are intentional.

Daniel Deleon