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Reflections on Building an Inclusive Economy within the Future of Work

Posted by Leighton Johnson On October 30 2017

With all the buzz around the changing landscape of the future workplace, ensuring that future workplaces are inclusive of diverse and unrepresented populations is a critical element that is often left out of conversations. How do we ensure that underserved populations equally benefit from innovations within the rapidly evolving global economy? Recently, I attended a panel discussing this very topic hosted by the Tufts Social Impact Network and the Tisch College of Civic Life. Panelists included Jody Rose of the New England Venture Capital Association and Hack.Diversity, Rachel Kaprielian of McDonald’s, and Beth Berwick of Year Up.

Moderated by Diane Hessan, chairman of C-Space, the lively discussion covered a range of topics focused on the impact of technological development and the future of work on wealth gaps within society. While I typically read about the need to increase diversity within technology industries, I rarely have access to conversations about equity gaps with leaders who are having these conversations day in and day out with technology and startup companies. My two major takeaways focus on the need for retention of diverse talent and the need to scale and diversify talent pools from the early stages of a company’s development.

Retention is an often-disregarded barrier. While recruitment of diverse talent is a major hurdle for promoting equity within innovation economy careers, retention and success are just as—if not more—important issues to address. Any workforce development program should address retention, not just recruitment, of diverse talent. Hack.Diversity matches their program participants with career coaches to help monitor and support their success once in the workplace. 

Scale and diversify at the same time. Many innovation economy employers often have employee pools of under 100 and should consider how to diversify as they scale. If companies increase their diverse talent as they grow, they will not create a major diversity barrier once they reach full scale. Startups and mid-sized companies should look early and often at strategies to increase diversity hiring and include diversity hiring at the senior level early on.

What this means for our work. Building on this discussion, we should all think deeply about ways to “future proof” career pathways work and ensure that underserved populations have opportunities to pursue innovation economy careers. Education and workforce stakeholders should push for the development of pathways that include skills that prepare for individuals to adapt to the changing demands of future labor markets and workplaces.  

Leighton Johnson is a program manager for strategy and development at Jobs for the Future.