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Creating a Legacy of Inclusion
 
Published Wednesday, January 3, 2018

As an immigration attorney, my focus is to help individuals and businesses come to—and establish themselves in—the United States. In this vein, when thinking of diversity, my attention is drawn to cultural challenges, language barriers and other obstacles faced by individuals new to the country. In my role as chairman of the Diversity Workforce Coalition, however, I deal with diversity on a broader scope, as the organization focuses on promoting the benefits of a workforce that is not only culturally diverse, but also diverse in ways such as gender and age. I believe that, in our digitally connected world and global economy, it is imperative that businesses interact with, understand and cooperate with people different from themselves in order to remain competitive in the global landscape.

One of the best ways to remain competitive is to attract the best and brightest people, and the easiest way to do that is by creating businesses that openly welcome people coming from non-traditional backgrounds. For NH businesses, that means looking not only out of state but outside of the country for everything from doctors to staff its hospitals to engineers and developers to support the state’s burgeoning tech scene. In NH, almost 30 percent of people with occupations in software development, applications and systems software—and over 20 percent of computer programmers—are foreign born, according to New American Economy, a coalition of business leaders and mayors launched by Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch.

The United States can make the path easier for these valuable contributors to the economy and our communities by defining a clear route to citizenship and working to remove the roadblocks and delays faced by these highly skilled people. If we don’t, the U.S. risks losing these innovators and job creators. For every foreign-born worker in the United States with a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) degree, 2.62 jobs for native-born workers are created, according to the Information Technology Industry Council. Other nations actively pursue them, including Canada, Australia and France, and if we don’t, we will fall behind.

In NH, we can help develop programs that support immigrants, help integrate them into our communities and create ecosystems that are attractive to foreign-born entrepreneurs and business people. As of 2014, immigrant-owned businesses generated $81.3 million in business income in NH while employing 20,882 people, according to Immigration Research and Information, a web site sponsored by the Immigrant Learning Center. Furthermore, immigrants make up a disproportionately high percentage of the state’s entrepreneurs—representing only 5.9 percent of the population, yet constituting 7.8 percent of entrepreneurs—making them vital to the state’s growing economy.

While access to the global talent pool is key for NH’s future, so is looking at untapped resources within the state. For example, many of today’s most valuable jobs are in STEM fields, but women, who make up almost half of the workforce, fill less than 25 percent of these jobs, according to the Economics & Statistics Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Not only can women bring much-needed workers to the STEM fields, but, much like immigrants, they can offer a different perspective, bolstering productivity and innovation.

Whether it’s working with the state’s colleges, eliminating biases in the field, or developing programs at the community and business level, NH businesses in the STEM fields would greatly benefit from being more gender inclusive. One of the easiest ways for NH to attract more people to the STEM fields—and attract more women STEM workers to the state—is by closing the pay gap.

Women are paid an average of 89 cents for every dollar a man earns in top STEM positions, according to a June article from Bloomberg. Closing the pay gap would demonstrate NH’s commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce.

The most amazing thing about diversifying and strengthening NH’s business and economy is that the answer is already here. Places like Dartmouth College, the University of NH and Southern NH University are all models for diversity and inclusion that attract some of the world’s best and brightest to NH. For our future to remain bright, it is necessary to retain these students after they graduate by providing them job opportunities and communities as inclusive as those they found on campus.

In 2015, NH hosted 4,506 international students, according to the Institute of International Education, with almost 50 percent of them here to receive a master’s degree, according to a David Brooks article in the Concord Monitor on Aug. 30. In a state that has seen a decline in high school graduates in recent years, these international students are providing an important revenue stream to the state’s colleges and universities while also playing a valuable role in the communities surrounding them.

According to the New American Economy, international students in NH bring $117.2 million to the economy and are responsible for creating 1,464 jobs. Not only do these students help financially support the state’s institutions of higher education, but they also create a diverse college community and help prepare students for living in a globalized world.

Retaining international students is also essential to NH because it counteracts one of the biggest threats to the state’s future: aging. New Hampshire has the second-oldest population in the country, meaning our businesses need these young college graduates to stay and replace those who are aging out of the workforce. In NH, 67 percent of foreign-born people are of working age, compared to 54 percent of native-born residents, according to the NH Charitable Foundation. Finding a way to keep these young graduates in NH needs to be a priority.

Additionally, the blending of young employees with NH’s more senior workforce will help in creating a diverse workforce ripe for innovation and entrepreneurship. Young workers can interject fresh ideas and new technology into our businesses while the older generation can provide mentorship, capital and knowledge only gained after having a full career.

New Hampshire has a long history with immigrants helping to drive the state’s growth; however, instead of supplying labor for logging and mills, today’s immigrants are becoming doctors, founding startups and filling some of the nation’s most hard-to-fill positions. The state has an opportunity to build on the legacy sparked in our forests and factories, and it starts with the establishment of welcoming businesses and communities geared toward being inclusive to people no matter their background, gender or age.

John R. Wilson is president and partner of GoffWilson, PA, an immigration law firm with offices in Concord, NH; Boston, Mass.; Naples, Fla. and Paris, France. He is founder and immediate past chair of the Diversity Workforce Coalition, a nonprofit that promotes a diverse workforce. He can be reached at jwilson@goffwilson.com. For more information, visit goffwilson.com.


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