The Partnership: Three Decades of Breaking Down Barriers for Women of Color

March 22, 2017

Carol Fulp is President and CEO of The Partnership, Inc., New England’s premier organization dedicated to enhancing the competitiveness of the region by attracting, developing, retaining and convening multicultural professionals. During its 30 year history, The Partnership has collaborated with nearly 300 corporations who have sponsored more than 4,000 multicultural executives and professionals in the organization’s innovative leadership development programming. Fulp has expanded offerings by creating the C-Suite Program for multicultural executives at the highest levels of corporations.

Given her leadership in business and public service, President Obama appointed Fulp as a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-Fifth Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Governor de Jongh appointed her as a trustee of the University of the Virgin Islands where she served for five years. Boston Mayor Menino and subsequently Mayor Walsh appointed her as trustee of the Boston Public Library where she served for seven years. Mayor Walsh also appointed her to the City of Boston Compensation Advisory Board. And Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg named Fulp to her Advisory Committee on Wage Equality.

Fulp serves on the board of trustees for Eastern Bank and as well as the board of directors for American Student Assistance Corporation. Her civic involvement includes the Harvard Kennedy School Women’s Leadership Board and trustee of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation. At the Kennedy Library she co-chaired the Profile in Courage Awards Dinner and was a panelist at the JFK Library Symposium in Tokyo, Japan, hosted by Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and keynoted by President Bill Clinton. In addition, she is on the board of directors of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston University and Citizen’s United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), where she serves as the Chair of the Strategic Communications Committee. She is also a founding co-chair of the Massachusetts Conference for Women, the largest professional women’s conference in the country, attracting more than 10,000 attendees annually.

In commemoration of Women’s History Month, it’s important that we acknowledge the gains women have made in the workplace.

Women own close to 10 million businesses, with female entrepreneurs accounting for $1.4 trillion in receipts. Female leaders are advancing through the executive corridor; women currently hold nearly 6 percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies and a record high of CEO positions – more than 5 percent – at Fortune 500 companies. At the end of last year, women occupied more than 15 percent of board seats at the 3000 largest publicly held companies in the country.

Yet, too many women are still fighting to earn a wage equal to their male counterparts’. Caucasian women make 78 cents for every dollar white men earn. There is an even wider pay gap for many women of color. According to a recent analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, Native American women in Massachusetts are paid 63 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic males, Black women are paid 61 cents, and Latina women just 50 cents. With women functioning as breadwinners in 40 percent of those households with children, such economic injustice becomes an added barrier to financial freedom.

At The Partnership, we work every day to help women of color break down these barriers. For the last three decades, The Partnership has worked to develop, support, and enhance ethnically diverse business and civic leadership through training, executive coaching, and mentoring. Eliminating the gender wage gap is one barrier we fight by training women to negotiate their salaries and, as a result, value their worth more accurately.

Significantly, eliminating the wage pay gap is not only good for women, it’s furthermore good for business. When women thrive, businesses thrive. In fact, research shows that businesses see an increase in their bottom line when the leadership has ethnic and gender diversity. Acknowledging equal pay for equal work and compensating workers fairly is an investment in human capital – and that means attracting and retaining the best talent.

What needs to happen in offices across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – and throughout the country – to make pay parity a reality?

It starts with business leaders. It’s on employers to maintain an inclusive culture and pay structure and to invest towards a diverse workforce. Data shows that employer interventions are among the most effective remedies to the wage gap. The 100% Talent Compact is a first step in holding businesses accountable in compensating employees fairly.

Next, corporate mentoring programs – like The Partnership’s Leadership Development Programs – are key for building pipelines of role models and mentors who can help young women, particularly young women of color, realize opportunities and feel supported and empowered. From advocating on behalf of young women, to practicing wage negotiations, corporate mentorship is a key tool in lifting up young professionals.

As an African-American woman CEO, it is my mission to foster professional growth in the young women who were once like me. There is no better place for me to fulfill that mission than through The Partnership.