In her new position as the City of Framingham’s inaugural Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, which she began in January, Dr. Maritsa Barros will have many responsibilities to help address equity issues in the City of Framingham. “It is sometimes challenging to describe,” she says. “But ultimately, it is to work with individuals, their specific areas, and their roles [within City government] but also to cross every sector and every level of the organization to optimize the rules of diversity and inclusion, and to develop intentional steps.” She says that it is essential to keep in mind who the City is serving, which is the people of the community, across three levels: individuals and themselves; individuals and their spheres; and systems, policy, and practices. She wants to first focus on recruitment across all divisions and implement best practices. “There is a lot to do,” she says.
Prior to taking on this new role, Dr. Barros served as the Chief Diversity Officer at Lesley University doing similar work and had previously worked at both Framingham State University and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams focused on Multicultural recruitment.
“I wake every day and I'm black in America and may face discrimination along the way, but it is important for me to keep working to create a better world for my children and for all children and adults, especially those underserved,” says Dr. Barros when asked why this role is significant to her.
With regard to diversity and economic development, Dr. Barros says, “Traditionally, lower income communities and communities of color are not taught to have our money work for us. I used to tell my students that a job will keep you ‘just over broke,’ but living in your purpose will help create generational wealth.” She is looking forward to working with the business community in the City to help nurture a climate for building that kind of generational wealth for Black and Brown communities in Framingham.
“I am the inaugural DEIO, but I want to make it clear that this work does not sit solely on my shoulders,” says Dr. Barros. “In order for my role to be as successful as we’d like, I need everyone to own this process; individuals at any level can play a role in making this community more inclusive. We all have to work at this together.”
During her seven-year tenure at Lesley University, Dr. Barros worked to address access to underserved students by developing the Urban Scholars Initiative and she played a pivotal role in establishing the office of multicultural affairs and office of diversity, equity, and inclusion there. “It gave me experience in building things from the ground up, which is something I enjoy,” she says. During her time working at Framingham State University, she lived in the City of Framingham, forming a part of the community for two years. She is excited to get to know the community better once the pandemic subsides. “Folks can definitely reach out and connect, I appreciate the patience and confidence of the community,” she says.
Dr. Barros attended Northeastern University, where she earned a doctorate in organizational leadership, and focused on research on the experiences of chief diversity officers serving predominantly white institutions.