A photo of a desk with a notebook that says "diversity" and "equality"

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The Boston College School of Social Work has created a certificate program to prepare master’s students to improve equality in the workplace for women, people of color, and other marginalized employees. 

The program, called “Leaders for Equity and Justice in the Workplace,” will launch in fall 2021. It aligns with the school’s mission to promote equity, justice, and inclusion on campus, in the community, and around the world.

“I think this is one of the most innovative programs in social work schools in the country,” says Samuel Bradley, Jr., an assistant professor who helped design the certificate. “Social workers have been advocating on behalf of low-wage workers and helping to make companies more equitable for a long time, but we haven’t always created academic courses to teach students how to think about equality and inclusion.”

Students will need to complete three courses to earn the certificate. “Re-thinking Diversity” explores the causes and effects of oppression and privilege. “Dismantling Organizational Bias” prepares students to manage diverse teams and resolve conflicts in the workplace. And “Creating the Inclusive Workplace” examines ways to reshape hiring practices to increase diversity.

Bradley hopes that students who earn the certificate will go on to direct equity, justice, and inclusion programs at colleges, public agencies, and private companies. 

He says that inequalities, demographic shifts in the population, and recent protests against anti-Black racism have created a new imperative to hire chief diversity officers at companies across the United States. Only 21 out of the top 500 companies in the country are chaired by a woman. Black people make 62 cents for every dollar a white male makes. And one study showed that job applicants with “typically white” names received 50 percent more callbacks than those with “typically Black” names. 

“We want to prepare students to create policies that make it easier to navigate work,” says Bradley, who studies equity in the workplace. “I hope students are able to learn the skills that will enable them to focus on the most marginalized workers in our economy.”

I think this is one of the most innovative programs in social work schools in the country. Social workers have been advocating on behalf of low-wage workers and helping to make companies more equitable for a long time. But we haven’t always created academic courses to teach students how to think about equality and inclusion.
Samuel Bradley, Jr., assistant professor

All master’s students are required to take “Re-thinking Diversity.” But more than 50 students have already completed at least one of the other two courses in the certificate program as it was being fine-tuned. 

“Creating the Inclusive Workplace” requires students to analyze a real company and create solutions to make it more equitable for all employees. “Dismantling Organizational Bias” puts students in the shoes of a chief diversity officer who must create a plan to remove barriers that hinder employee success and well-being. 

Bradley says that students will apply what they have learned in class to internships with some of the best diversity officers in Boston. He envisions a future where students in the program advocate for the rights of workers at nonprofit’s, for-profits, government agencies, and HR departments. 

Rosa Rodriguez-Williams, the senior director of belonging and inclusion at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, praises programs that prepare students to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  

“This type of program is very important and is significant to transforming the workplace,” says Rodriguez-Williams, MSW’99. “Diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and accessibility work within institutions must be intentional, and the creation of programs that intentionally prepare folks to do this work in the workplace is imperative.”

Samuel Bradley, Jr.

Samuel Bradley, Jr., an assistant professor in the Boston College School of Social Work. Photo by Kyle Encar.

Students say the courses have improved their ability to think outside the box, communicate with employers, and dismantle white supremacy culture in the workplace. 

“I don’t just want to go to work, do my work, and leave,” says Jason Madden, who’s taking “Dismantling Organizational Bias” this semester. “I want to make an impact in other ways. In whatever space I go, if I see that there’s a need to make the environment more inclusive, I’m going to present those ideas.”

Mary Ulseth has learned that employees who serve as mediators to resolve conflicts in the workplace must not always act neutral. She says that mediators need to recognize who holds the power in disputes and how their own age, race, gender, and sexuality play into their attempts to solve problems.

“Mediators are often seen as neutral,” says Ulseth, who is scheduled to graduate later this month. “But you have to acknowledge the power dynamics at play between the people you are working with and your own social locations too.”

Ulseth’s future plans are up in the air, but she says she wants to work in education or public health. Either way, finding ways to improve equality will top her to-do list.

 “I’m focused on working in the community and changing structures and systems,” she says. “I want to work toward dismantling structural racism and white supremacy culture.”

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