Paul Francisco: Pushing the Needle Toward Equity

January 11, 2022 Sarah Bloznalis Sarah Bloznalis

Paul Francisco4-minute read

“If you’re a diversity practitioner, this is one of the moments you’ll remember forever in terms of your career, where your job changed and transformed.” This is how Paul Francisco, chief diversity officer at State Street Corporation, views the past few months. According to Paul, the focus on truly achieving diversity and inclusion both in society and the workplace is “a really positive outcome out of a very unfortunate set of circumstances.”

During an insightful conversation with Workhuman® CHRO Steve Pemberton for our Keeping Work Human series, longtime friends Steve and Paul reflect on their pasts, our present, and how to pave a path forward to a more equitable future.

As State Street’s first chief diversity officer, Paul is looking structurally at “what is preventing us from moving the needle more purposefully around breaking down racism and systemic barriers,” and is committed to making it happen.   

Achieving economic justice

Steve acutely points to the significant impact financial services institutions such as State Street have on achieving economic justice for all.

“We play a pivotal role,” Paul agrees and readily admits. “These institutions are managing, lending, and determining the flow of capital.”

When deciding how best to allocate this capital, Paul believes it’s critical to “make sure the economies of underserved communities are thriving, or at least beginning to thrive.”

Rather than thinking about recovery, Paul points to reconstruction. “How do you build systems that are more equitable moving forward? How do you do things differently that structurally changes the dynamic of how capital flows in our communities?”

Gratitude and recognition

The global pandemic has led to increased stress across industries, and financial services is no exception. Steve and Paul both understand the positive impact recognition and gratitude can have on today’s employees, who are often stressed and lonely. “I’m happy to be working with Workhuman,” Paul reflects, “as we just recently onboarded a new recognition program we’re really excited about.”

According to Paul, State Street’s employee engagement scores show there are three things driving engagement:

  • Inclusion and diversity
  • Corporate citizenship
  • Recognition

Steve speculates about the intersection between recognition and diversity, equity, and inclusion: “It creates this platform where you can proactively identify the emerging trends and issues.” Using recognition, he believes organizations can address these issues in the moment.

Paul is a big advocate of tools, resources, and technology that help organizations do things differently and better. What once worked no longer does, and resilient organizations know now is the time to innovate and transform. Paul encourages progressive leaders to listen to what employees are asking for and think differently about how to solve these challenges.

New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund

Candid conversations around racism and allyship are a good start, but achieving true social and racial equity requires all hands on deck. Paul realizes this, which is why he recently co-founded the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund. “Nineteen Black and brown executives came together around the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to try to drive systemic change around racial and social equity issues,” he explains.

The Fund, which is to be led by these executives, was created “in support and in service of Black and brown institutions, organizations, and not-for-profits that don’t get funding through traditional philanthropic channels.” According to Paul, only about 2% of all philanthropic funding goes to organizations led by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color).

The fund has four pillars:

  • Social justice
  • Economic empowerment
  • Police reform
  • Anti-racism education

These four pillars, especially the notion of economic justice, resonate with Steve: “We’ve got to create an environment where people can make good choices because they have good choices.” Right now, there are 19 executives on the board of the fund, but Paul knows, “there’s not just 19 of us here in Massachusetts, so we need to [bring on] more companies to support it.”

Both Paul and Steve acknowledge the many people who made investments in their success, and now they hope to do the same for others. Paul now asks, “How do we create environments where everyone can get that kind of support, that mentorship, and sponsorship and opportunity?”

On his own journey, Paul reflects, “I always think about growing up in Honduras, then coming here at the age of 17 and having that opportunity. But I always think about those kids in my neighborhood that were so brilliant and talented that unfortunately didn’t have those figures that you and I were fortunate enough to have in our lives.” Now is the time to take steps to promote equal opportunity and resources for all, regardless of race, gender, or income level. With progressive leaders like Steve and Paul paving the way, we are one step closer to achieving that goal.

About the Author

Sarah Bloznalis

Sarah Bloznalis is a content marketing specialist at Workhuman from Dorchester, Mass. When she’s not writing about the future of work you can find her in the library, at the beach, or exploring the city.