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September 20, 2020
 
Allegations of Racial Bias Roil Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell
Girls Inc Lowell

August 20, 2020 — Allegations of racial bias at Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell, a nonprofit based in Lowell that provides programs to help girls grow up healthy and educated, led to the resignation of its executive director recently and the firing of its business manager.

The executive team shake-up, reported in The Lowell Sun, followed an online petition that "alleged repeated incidents of racial bias and retaliation for speaking out" at Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell.

Tracy Ingersoll, who became executive director of the organization in 2013, stepped down last month, the board announced.

Business Manager Robert MacPhail, who reportedly was the subject of allegations included in the online petition, was fired last month, according to The Sun.

Cathy Duffy Cullity, who has served as CEO of Girls Inc. of New Hampshire, is currently serving as interim executive director of Girls Inc. Lowell.

A statement issued earlier this month by the nonprofit's board of directors, which engaged the law firm of Gallagher & Cavanaugh, LLP to investigate the allegations enumerated in the online petition, noted that "the investigation was prompted by and focused on a specific incident that occurred during a staff training on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, but it also included an analysis of general allegations regarding Girls Inc.'s policies, procedures, and practices with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion."

It identified areas "where in general Girls Inc. can improve to become a more equitable and culturally competent organization."

The board did not provide details regarding the allegations cited in the petition.

However, the petition alleged "several incidents made public by former staff have highlighted a culture of white supremacy and harmful patriarchy at Girls Incorporated of Greater Lowell," citing derogatory language toward Blacks by White employees.

"Most importantly," the petition noted, "we demand that Girls Inc. begin working with a professional organization to begin the work necessary to address deep-rooted white supremacy and harmful patriarchy in areas such as board representation, policy development, recruiting, hiring, on boarding, mentoring, trauma informed and culturally responsive leadership and practices, and meaningful collaborations with culturally specific organizations (these are some examples and not a complete list)."

In its public statement, released earlier this month, the board said it would take a number of actions to address findings developed by the investigation conducted by Gallagher & Cavanaugh. They include:

  • Restructuring senior level positions.
  • Soliciting feedback from staff on "how we can do better"
  • Developing a racial equity plan
  • Improving diversity and cultural competency among staff, management, and the board to more closely reflect the diversity of members
  • Providing educational resources to the board and staff and implementing mandatory training

Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell, part of the national Girls Inc. organization, traces its roots to 1917 and two years later became the Girls City Club, a Lowell community services club. It changed its name to Girls Inc. in 1990 to maintain its affiliation with the national organization and to reflect membership from Lowell and surrounding communities.

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