New effort to help more people of color land leadership roles in Vermont

Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 5:04 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Vermont nonprofit is trying to increase the number of people of color on boards and in leadership positions.

The organization behind this push is the Vermont Professionals of Color Network. Group members I spoke to say they’re trying to increase civic engagement among people of color in the state by making those leadership positions more accessible. They say they want to make it possible for people to go beyond just getting involved and actually start taking charge.

The Vermont Professionals of Color Network, or VT POC, is an organization built to advance the economic and professional prosperity of Black, Indigenous and people of color in Vermont. To address this goal, they’ve launched something new: civic engagement listings.

“A lot of folks don’t quite know where to go and this is a one-stop shop to at least get their information out there,” said Weiwei Wang, the director of operations and development at VT POC.

Any organization with openings for board members can add them to the list.

Wang is the co-founder and director of operations and development for VT POC. She says she’s personally experienced the complexities of first trying to get involved in leadership roles and civic engagement. She hopes the new resource will help demystify the process.

“This process of joining a board or joining a committee, it can be very daunting because we are part of a historically excluded group and we don’t necessarily have the general generational knowledge to understand OK, what do I bring to the table? And actually, we bring a lot as a community,” Wang said.

The new listings page is designed to increase the visibility of nonprofit board and other civic engagement opportunities.

“The goal is to anchor people in the place that they’re living here in Vermont, to make sure that they feel welcome in the community and to start to build that community beyond what they currently have,” Wang said.

Visitors will be able to explore open board and civic positions across the state of Vermont, which is home to more than 6,000 nonprofit organizations.

They can get resources on the roles and responsibilities of board members, and learn about the benefits of sitting on a board.

“There are so many people of color who are young who are out there trying to make their way and this would be a great opportunity for them to feel seen and selected and a part of something that can be a meaningful catalyst for their growth and development in the state,” said Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden County.

Vermont is home to more than 300 boards and commissions, and state leaders say membership in these groups should reflect the state’s current and future diversity.

“Vermont is diversifying. Ninety percent of its population growth in the last decade or more has been from people of color. They are a huge part of the workforce, a huge part of who’s graduating from our schools, and you’re only going to be better off and have a more sustainable organization if you have people of color joining your boards,” Ram Hinsdale said.

Leaders of the new initiative say that going forward they hope to continue to find new ways to get people of color to feel welcome and take charge in their communities, and they encourage all those interested to reach out.