Bright Horizons CHRO: Actionable Steps toward Diversity in Your Workplace

Young Black employee using education assistance at night

2020 has prompted a lot of soul searching among employers about diversity and racial equity in our workplaces. It’s true for us, and it’s true for the employers we work with. 

Conversations with our clients have made it clear that we’re all looking for ways to make meaningful change, and that we all recognize such change will come from creating opportunities for employee groups that have for too long been underrepresented. 

Education is one way we can provide those opportunities.

More and more we’re seeing degrees become the required step between an employee and a career on the rise. One study shows more than 2/3 of jobs will require some post-high-school learning by 2027; another says employees with degrees enjoy as much as a 167% salary bump

Yet we also know underrepresented groups are challenged to earn those degrees. One study shows Black students roughly 40% less likely to reach graduation than their white peers. The absence of credentials creates substantial roadblocks to climbing the organizational ladder -- and so to truly diversifying organizations. 

Some of it comes down to money. The wealth gap between Black and white families remains a substantial hurdle that continues to keep people from educational goals. But the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that there are other factors as well. 

Finding the right campus: “Black students,” writes the Chronicle, “tend to come from…families with little or no college experience.” Such inexperience can make it difficult for students to choose campuses where they’ll be successful.      

Thriving once they get there: The same socio-economic conditions that make it hard to pay for college can hamper students’ ability to thrive once there. In addition to coming from families with little or no college experience, they’re graduating, writes the Chronicle, “from underperforming high schools that didn’t prepare them well for higher education.”

Making it to graduation: We already know that financing done year-by-year means money problems follow students throughout undergrad life – leaving many paying debt for degrees they never earned. For low-income families, the pandemic is making it even harder. The Washington Post reports that students from families making under $75,000 are cancelling plans to take classes at roughly twice the rate of students from families earning more than $100,000.

Any one of these barriers can derail a student’s educational pursuit. Each in turn limits the number of diverse candidates presenting at our workplaces. All can be impacted by an employer that helps students choose, pay for, and finish programs. Plus, the interest is there. By removing financial barriers to degrees at Bright Horizons, our own education program increased participation among Black employees by 48%.

What we know is that education assistance isn’t just a benefit – it’s an opportunity; and “opportunity” is the key word. “Chief among such sources of opportunity is higher education,” wrote the Chronicle in its report on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education. “To be clear, there are myriad factors that inform educational access and success, such as income, wealth, geography, and age. Yet it remains the case—as the data in this and other studies show—that race is a prevailing factor in many educational outcomes.”

We at Bright Horizons are committed to equitable workplaces, and we know there’s much work to be done to further this important work, and deepen our impact – both for ourselves and for our clients. Education is one way we can make a real difference.

Webinar: How Education Assistance Drives Diversity in the Workplace

Join us on 10/21 to learn how removing barriers to education opens opportunity to traditionally under-represented groups – and how you can make program adjustments without increasing costs.

Reserve Your Seat!

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Written by: Maribeth Bearfield

October 7, 2020

About the Author

Maribeth Bearfield at Bright Horizons

Maribeth Bearfield joined Bright Horizons in 2017 as SVP, HR and Chief Human Resources Officer. Maribeth brings a background as an educator and more than 25 years of human resources experience to her writing. Prior to joining Bright Horizons, Maribeth served as CHRO at Kaseya Corporation and Hanover Insurance, and as Chief Talent Officer at State Street. Maribeth has also held positions at Cisco Systems, Oracle and GTE.