Meet our champions of diversity
When we asked Globe readers and staffers to tell us about people who deserve recognition for promoting diversity in Massachusetts, the nominations came flooding in for passionate, dedicated folks in almost every field. From the scores of worthy candidates, we singled out 12 who in very different ways — from encouraging women and people of color to run for office, to making corporate boardrooms more inclusive, to ensuring disadvantaged kids have equal access to college — are breaking down barriers and even challenging our very definition of diversity.Pictured above (from left) in Paul Revere Park in Boston, with the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge in the background, are the Rev. Eric Markman, pastor at Hartford Street Presbyterian Church in Natick; Priti Rao, executive director of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus; and Edward Walker of Independent Consultants of Education.
Executive dirctor, Women’s Political CaucusWith Elizabeth Warren’s victory and women voters coming out in record numbers, as well as other gains for female candidates in congressional and state legislature races, Rao said there has been a fundamental shift in the political conversation. “Our country is changing as our government becomes more reflective of the citizens in our population,’’ said Rao, 26, the first woman of color to head up this nonpartisan organization committed to maximizing the number of women in government leadership positions.After the election, Rao is regrouping to expand the organization’s network into diverse communities outside Boston such as in western and central Massachusetts. She pointed with pride to the organization’s municipal endorsement program, which she credits with helping Ayanna Pressley become the first woman of color reelected to the Boston City Council and Fitchburg’s Lisa Wong win a third term as the state’s first Asian-American female mayor. The caucus also got involved in the redistricting process, preserving key portions of the Fifth Congressional district, represented by Niki Tsongas, the state’s only female congressional delegate. Read more about Rao.—Cindy Atoji Keene, Globe Correspondent
Executive director, Access Strategies FundAs executive director of the nonpartisan Access Strategies Fund, Bates, 43, has had a hand in diversifying the pool of potential candidates. A graduate of Boston University School of Law, Bates began her career in the 1990s with Women’s Statewide Legislative Network, where she helped to pass laws outlawing gender-based workplace discrimination and guaranteeing women longer postnatal hospital stays. She has also worked as a diversity consultant for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and nonprofits.While working as a Beacon Hill lobbyist, Bates learned an important lesson: To bring about changes for outsiders, she had to learn to work the system as a political insider. As a woman and a minority, she says, she always had to ensure she was the most organized, best-dressed, most articulate lobbyist on Beacon Hill – even when she felt like she didn’t belong. Read more about Bates.—Martine Powers, Globe Staff
Pastor, Hartford Street Presbyterian Church, NatickA mash-up of traditional hymns, ’70s folk songs, and African drumbeats, Sunday mornings at Hartford Street Presbyterian Church in Natick are not your typical church service. The Rev. Eric Markman, 56, is not your typical pastor. He took the reins at Hartford Street Presbyterian two years ago, and since then the small church of 125 members has developed a big reputation for diversity. The melting pot tradition at Hartford Street Presbyterian has given Markman a new perspective on the faith he holds dear. He maintains that it was never the end goal – just a byproduct of the church’s mission to embrace all with open arms. “There is no formula that I know of,’’ says Markman, who lives with his wife in Haverhill. “It happens, I really think, out of living out God’s love for the world and welcoming all who come to this church.’’ Read more about Markman.—Martine Powers, Globe Staff
Ed Walker and Hugh Coleman
Former Charlestown High School basketball playersAlmost two decades ago, Ed Walker (left) and Hugh Coleman met on the basketball court at Charlestown High School. Both men went through the Boston public school system and went on to top-ranked colleges — Coleman to Bowdoin and Walker to Bates. They then each decided to return to their urban roots and help other disadvantaged youth.Today Coleman, 34, is a teacher at Jeremiah Burke High School and an acclaimed basketball coach who led previously lackluster Brighton High to its first state championship game appearance this spring. After serving in admissions and college counseling roles, Walker four years ago founded Independent Consultants of Education, driven by the goal of closing the achievement gap and providing disadvantaged students with equitable access to college and knowledge.Read more about Walker and Coleman.—Cindy Atoji Keene, Globe Correspondent
President, Globe NovationsHyter, 55, has been heralded in the human resources industry as a leader in the realm of workplace diversity. Hyter began integrating his innovative philosophy — that diversity pertains to ways of thinking, beliefs, and even behavior, as much as it does race or gender — into the company’s training materials and classes when he became its CEO in 2001.Global Novations offers major corporations and small mom and pop shops across the United States and in Europe. (Clients include Microsoft Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co.) diversity, inclusion, and leadership development training. Employers who can learn to integrate employees’ personal philosophies into their corporate philosophy have better track records in attracting new customers — and they tend to have more meaningful relationships with their employees, says Hyter. Read more about Hyter.—James H. Burnett III, Globe Staff
J. Keith Motley
Chancellor, UMass BostonBy the numbers, 41 percent of UMass Boston’s UMass Boston’s nearly 16,000 students are ethnic minorities or students of color, and they hail from more than 80 countries, making it the most diverse university in Massachusetts and one of the most diverse public universities in the United States. Under the leadership of Motley, UMB’s first African-American chancellor, the share of people of color in executive administration roles has grown, as has the percentage of minority graduate students, with students of color now making up 53 percent of UMass Boston’s STEM majors. While he’s proud of the numbers, Motley encourages a much more expansive view of diversity, and has charged his new Office of Diversity and Inclusion with sussing out student, faculty, and staff perceptions of the campus environment that will help guide a strategic plan for diversity.Read more about Motley.—James H. Burnett III, Globe Staff
President and CEO, Whittier Street Health Center, RoxburyWilliams, 54, has seen the number of patients treated at the health center each year increase from 5,000 to almost 20,000. Her goal is 100,000 patient-visits annually by 2015. Whittier Street treats people originating from 20 different countries and also features a staff that speaks a wide range of languages, including Swahili, Arabic, Bosnian, Portuguese, Yoruba, Russian, Farsi, Somali, and Spanish.In spite of its multicultural patient base and worldly staff, Williams says the strength of the clinic’s diversity is in recognizing that regardless of their appearance or cultural background, many of Whittier Street’s beneficiaries don’t have the means to treat themselves better. She has launched an aggressive exercise program that works with city high schools, to help get black and Latino teenagers moving, since they’re twice as likely to be obese than their white counterparts. And she’s opened a diabetes clinic to treat and educate blacks and Latinos who’ve fallen victim to diabetes without knowing it.Read more about Williams.—James H. Burnett III, Globe Staff
Northeastern Univeristy graduate student and disabilities advocateHonigfeld, born deaf, has been speaking out for people with disabilities since she was a Girl Scout urging Connecticut legislators to support a bill to put closed captioning in movie theaters. Now 22, she is now majoring in human services at Northeastern University. Even today, she’s working to make the world a more inclusive place. She transformed NU’s deaf club into a sign language club that includes people who can hear. And she doesn’t limit her efforts to the deaf community. After seeing kids with Down Syndrome and autism struggle to make friends while she was a cooperative education student at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club, she helped develop several social skills groups pairing disabled students with their nondisabled peers.Read more about Honigfeld.—Katie Johnston, Globe Staff
State represntative for Medford and Somerville, and LGBT rights supporterSciortino’s reputation as an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights often irks him. “I don’t see LGBT rights as a separate category,’’ says Sciortino, 34. “I want to tell the story of [their] rights within the context of social and economic justice.’’A Tufts University graduate, Sciortino is one of just a handful of openly gay state representatives here. Sciortino was elected in 2004 in a campaign centered on supporting gay marriage in the Bay State; his more recent successes include his push to pass the transgender antidiscrimination bill he cosponsored, making it a crime to deny someone access to housing or employment based on their gender presentation.Read more about Sciortino.—Martine Powers, Globe Staff
Robert F. Rivers
President and CEO, Eastern BankA few years ago, Rivers took a hard look at the bank’s governing group and became concerned: it was almost entirely made up of older white men. “I have nothing against older white men … but we had some really glaring gaps,’’ says Rivers, 48. To break the cycle at Eastern, Rivers made a conscious effort to frequent minority events and recruit professionals of color, such as Colette Phillips, a black Boston public relations executive known for multicultural marketing. Rivers says he cold-called Phillips after reading about her and later persuaded her to join the bank’s trustees. He said the number of minorities and women on the governance committees tripled to 30 percent over the past few years, though he hopes to increase it further as existing members retire. Read more about Rivers.—Todd Wallack, Globe Staff
Managing director, Microsoft Research New England in CambridgeThe daughter of Iranian immigrants and an accomplished academic in the male-dominated field of mathematical physics, Chayes was the first woman to lead one of Microsoft Corp.’s research labs, where the Redmond, Wash., software giant spends millions annually to spur the next wave of innovation. She’s using her post to inspire more young women to pursue math and science in hopes that being a top female technologist will no longer be a rarity. “If all their role models are male, it’s hard for them to imagine themselves in that situation,’’ says Chayes, 56, who cofounded Microsoft Research New England in Cambridge in 2008 and helped launch Microsoft Research New York City this year.Read more about Chayes.—Michael B. Farrell, Globe Staff
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