October Luncheon Recap: Discussion on Diversity and Inclusion with Mariangely Solis Cervera, Chief of Equity and Inclusion for the City of Boston
On October 13th, WTS-Boston had the pleasure to hear Mariangely Solis Cervera, Chief of Equity and Inclusion (E&I) for the City of Boston. Chief Solis Cervera is the proud daughter of a Puerto Rican father from Carolina and an immigrant mother from Mérida, Yucatán, who from an early age taught her that “Si caben 5, caben 6” (if 5 people fit, we can fit 6) - a lesson that she has taken with her in every step of her career and personal life.
Chief Solis Cervera started the conversation with a quote from Paulo Freire’s book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “All education is political; teaching is never a neutral act”. This quote resonated with her as she stepped into her role at the City of Boston, highlighting that her work has an impact, and is not neutral. She added that by carrying on their work, the E&I Cabinet, is either liberating or affecting someone.
During her presentation, Chief Solis Cervera shared Mayor Wu’s vision for the City of Boston: A City for Everyone, the Greenest City, and a Family Friendly City. The E&I Cabinet, created a little over 2 years ago by Mayor Walsh, plays an important role in this vision. Chief Solis Cervera indicated that a lot of the work being done by the Cabinet right now is educating people so there is alignment on the definitions of E&I, to then move on to accountability.
She defined equity as every community having the resources they need to thrive in Boston, which requires the active process of meeting individuals where they are. Inclusion she defined as engaging every resident to build a more welcoming and supportive City. She said, “We are building a city for everyone, where diversity makes us a more empowered collective.” That is why the E&I Cabinet’s mission is to ensure every resident of the City of Boston has fair access to the City’s resources and opportunities. Chief Solis Cervera pointed out that the WTS community plays an important role in the Cabinet’s mission as designers should think about embedding issues of access into their designs.
Chief Solis Cervera also discussed the E&I Cabinet’s current internal and external initiatives. Some of the internal initiatives include a City-wide E&I toolkit for outreach and events, equitable budgeting tool for ARPA projects and developing strong Employee Resource Groups for employees. As for external initiatives, the E&I Cabinet is focusing on Community Resource and Job Fairs in neighborhoods across the city, empowering residents through Lead Boston, and amplifying the Cabinet’s work to create equitable pathways to success for marginalized residents.
The virtual participants had the opportunity to ask questions to Chief Solis Cervera. On the challenges of working in E&I specific to Boston, she said that the E&I work in general represents a unique challenge, but in Boston we are fortunate to have more resources. She added that some people are defining equity as equality, so a big part of the work is to get the definition straight and lead with that. Chief Solis Cervera closed by addressing people that were interested in entering the E&I space. She said, “be clear on why you want to enter this space; the work is not new – the newness is the professionalizing of the work.”