Danielson ‘Donny’ Tavares: Fighting for Diversity in the City of Champions

By Evan J. Cutts

Boston, MA — Chief Diversity Officer for the City of Boston Danielson ‘Donny’ Tavares, appointed in May of 2016, works to implement the city’s diversity goals and objectives. This includes hiring, leadership, and career development.

“I was drawn to the job by the opportunity to utilize my personal experiences growing up in Boston to help shape positive policies for a rapidly changing city.”

In his role, Tavares partners with community, academic, and business groups to develop hiring processes that ensure opportunities and advancement for candidates from underrepresented populations.

Tavares noted that the City’s is also retraining its workforce with implicit bias and other sensitivity trainings.

According to Tavares, successful D&I strategy must consider two factors: measurable goals and support from executive leadership. While diversity goals may vary with each strategy, ensuring support from organization leaders is crucial for successful implementation.

“In my experience, the best way of securing buy-in from organization leadership is to expand the seats at the table,” he said. “Doing so strengthens the vetting process [with diverse perspectives]. This doesn’t mean everyone will, or has to, agree. I have found most people are appreciative of having their viewpoint heard.”

Developing sustainable D&I strategy in a city as historic and dynamic as Boston comes with its own challenges. In Tavares’ words, “changing culture is always difficult.”

“Even though the City has done a great job with the numbers—on average, forty-five percent of our hires are persons of color—diversity is more than a numbers game.”

In other words, if diverse individuals “are not in positions of influence,” the numbers lose their impact.

“Within our department, we have expanded our employee resource groups to provide our employees the spaces to speak on the changes they need. I use their feedback to improve the day-to-day experiences of our entire workforce.”  

Tavares is proud to note the creation of the City’s interactive employee demographics dashboard, an online resource utilized by Mayor Walsh and City Staff to remain current with diversity trends within Boston’s workforce.

According to Tavares, the City of Boston is embracing many other D&I “firsts.”

“We recently hired a Chief Resilience Officer to begin race dialogues around the city; we also appointed the first-ever African-American Commissioner of the Boston Police Department, William Gross,”

To sustain this positive trend, Tavares encourages Bostonians to continue advocating for diversity and inclusion within our workforce, government, and public policy.