Front and Center: Workplace Inclusion Reflections and Recommendations from Hourly Workers of Color of Marginalized Gender Identities in Greater Boston 

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On February 28, 2023, YW Boston hosted a virtual event celebrating the release of our Front & Center Report. The event introduced the research and provided an overview of the findings included in the report. The report uplifts the perspectives of hourly workers of color with marginalized identities which emerged through interviews and focus groups. In addition, the report contains recommendations for employers to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. To complement these findings, the event included three expert speakers with relevant experience to discuss the practice of building an inclusive workplace.  

The virtual event and report covered areas for improvement in the workplace such as inequitable pay, belonging in company culture, inflexibility, lack of leadership, lack of opportunities for promotion, and biased systems of acknowledgement. Attendees were called to action to start building their own workplace of belonging and inclusion, supported by the real examples from and experiences of our panelists. Thank you to all of the panelists for lending their time and expertise for this crucial topic! 

Front & Center event speakers included: 

This event was a showcase of the research conducted by Aminata Kaba, who authored the white paper attached to the report. YW Boston especially extends its sincere thanks to the Eos Foundation for its valuable support for this report and event. Thank you to our partners, supporters, and collaborators, including: The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Advancement, Brandeis University, The Office of Economic Empowerment, The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, The City of Boston’s Office of Women’s Advancement, Union of Minority Neighborhoods, Amplify Latinx, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center.

We invite you all to learn more by viewing a recording of our event below: Front & Center: How to prioritize hourly workers with marginalized gender identities in DEI strategy – YouTube

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Front and Center Findings and Proposed Solutions

Invest in All Staff, Especially Hourly

To address the challenge of inequitable and opaque pay, our research suggests conducting a pay equity audit. “Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate!” as Dr. Bradley, a panelist, mentioned during the event. Asses where your organization is so you can identify the gaps and start to close them. All of our panelists agreed getting a “read on your current state” and conducting listening circles, focus groups, and places where hourly workers can safely voice their concerns can help build the trust an organization needs to build a more inclusive workplace.

Making Inclusion a Reality

Another challenge that was brought to light was the disconnect between the intention of employers to build an inclusive workplace to the reality of prioritizing racial and gender identity to create a true sense of belonging for all employees.

What our study has shown is that even small chances to check in and create a space for discussion about the workplace can nurture a sense of bonding and connection between employee and employer, which improves business functions and operations.

Distance from Decision Makers

Participants found it hard to be confident in their leadership without a seat at the table or an opportunity to communicate their point of view to management and colleagues. This lack of trust was especially the case when it came to DEI initiatives and strategies. Panelist Diane Gould mentioned that her organization, Advocates, makes sure to not only make seats at the table but paid seats at the table for hourly workers when they employ their own extra time to voice concerns or discuss opportunities for the workplace. These spaces included Employee Resource Groups and working groups that can create what she calls “Brave Spaces” for employees. 

We urge you to consider making tables, making seats, committees, groups (and compensating participation!) to uplift all the voices at the organization and create a more engaged and diverse collaboration. 

Rigid Requirements

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant change in job requirements and how they are performed. Frontline workers and hourly workers faced increased pressure during the pandemic and the subsequent wave of remote work. These workers were more likely to stay working “in person” and were sent back to work during the height of the pandemic much earlier than their colleagues. While a lot of workers were granted more flexibility and confidence in their work, too many hourly workers faced more rigid requirements. These decisions increased the divide between those who were trusted to work independently and those who were not. 

Manageable policies such as hybrid options, flexible hours, and gaining an hourly schedule in advance can support mental health, decrease distractions, increase creativity, increase productivity, decrease tardiness, and increase the ability to manage other responsibilities (I.e. caregiving)

Lack of Leadership

There is inadequate leadership support of hourly workers, especially those of color and from marginalized gender identities. This absence of authority was evident through unresponsive and unavailable managers, cancelled or deprioritized supervisory meetings, and absent or untrustworthy human resources representatives. Workers in our study did not have clear guidance from their managers about what their job was, or how to do it well. This can be frustrating and disheartening for hourly workers.  

Organizations should invest in proper management training and establish a clear role for human resources. These trainings should focus on how to include workers from all roles and backgrounds. This focus on people-driven support and increased transparency of employee resources can foster a workplace of trust

No Pathways to Promotion 

The participants expressed a strong desire for professional growth and, more specifically, professional growth supported and instituted by their employer. Employers should cultivate the experience already existing at their organization by working with employees to identify next steps for development. There can be high performing employees with increased skillsets on their way to advance their careers instead of a lack of resources for professional development, and little to no investment in employees to grow. Rather than recruiting, hiring, and training new employees, invest in the skilled, experienced, and eager employees that you already have at your organization

Inadequate Recognition 

There are often inadequate levels of praise and biased systems of recognition in place at many organizations and companies. This shows hourly workers that they are not acknowledged or praised for their work. Recognition for effort and quality of work are important components of employee engagement, morale, and retention. As panelist Karen Groce-Horan pointed out, and shared resources about, “People will know that they are cared for and that this matters to a company.” Participants described that too many of them either did not have opportunities to be recognized or they found that the same people were recognized all the time: mostly White and/or male staff.  

By assessing your culture of recognition, or lack thereof, you can start to recognize where biases have infiltrated systems. A culture of informal or formal feedback and recognition can cultivate higher quality work, deeper relationships between colleagues, and decrease silos and inefficiencies between teams


We are extremely grateful for the chance to amplify the voices of these participants. Our report shows that inclusion and specifically, belonging, is not only a possibility but a necessity in Greater Boston workplaces. 

We challenge you; our panelists and participants urge you: read this report, share these findings, listen to these voices, and make a change for the better in your workplace. Maybe it is one step, one action, one day of a more inclusive and positive change but it is a step towards increasing equity and belonging in your workplace and it is possible. 

For more details on these tactics for an inclusive workplace, please review YW Boston’s programs and opportunities to work with us. Questions about the report? Email Brianna A. Savage at


Need help advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in your workplace?
  • InclusionBoston: Long-term organizational partnership designed to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels.
  • LeadBoston: Cohort-based inclusive leadership development program for mid- to senior-level professionals.
  • UncoverBoston: Our inclusive leadership program, facilitated for cohorts within the same organization.
  • DEI Workshops: Facilitated trainings that build knowledge, communication, and culture.
  • Forums: Facilitated interactive presentations about current events.
  • DEI Community of Practice: Unique space for DEI practitioners to collaborate and problem solve.


About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and F.Y.R.E. Initiative, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Whether your organization is large or small, you’re just starting out with DEI, or are further along on the journey, YW Boston will work with you to find the right solutions. YW Boston offers a variety of DEI Services designed to create lasting change. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at