Workforce diversity report shows room for improvement

Pittsburgh’s work force is not diverse, a new report shows, but its authors expressed a need for the city to improve.

On Thursday, the Workforce Diversity Indicators Initiative, a coalition of Pittsburgh organizations led by Vibrant Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Today, released the Pittsburgh Regional Workforce Diversity Indicators Report. The report collected data from the U.S. Census Bureau Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program’s Quarterly Workforce Indicators to measure Pittsburgh against other similar metropolitan regions on diversity in the work force.

Rich Fitzgerald, chief executive of Allegheny County, said that although Pittsburgh has done well at creating jobs, it has failed at filling those jobs with a diverse workforce.

“To see the report … we fell behind when it came to diversity,” he said. “We do have some challenges we have to meet.”

The coalition also included Pitt’s University Center for Social and Urban Research and the School of Social Work’s Center on Race and Social Problems.

A panel of representatives from each organization spoke at the University Club to an audience of local business leaders, policymakers and officials from community organizations. The representatives discussed their findings and objectives based on the report.

The report, funded by a grant from the Heinz Endowments, examined 15 U.S. metropolitan regions including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Across the analyzed regions, the researchers found that minority workers hold only 25 percent of all jobs. In Pittsburgh, however, minority workers hold only 11 percent of all jobs. According to the report, minorities account for 13.6 percent of the southwestern Pennsylvania population. Atlanta is the closest of the benchmark regions to equality. There, minority groups hold 44 percent of all jobs.

The panel included Douglas Heuck, director of Pittsburgh Today, and Melanie Harrington, president and CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh. 

It is clear, the report said, that the lack of a diverse workforce is “pervasive and deeply entrenched,” and it asserted that southwestern Pennsylvania needs a “coordinated” strategy to increase diversity. 

Heuck said the report was the first of what will be several steps in working toward making Pittsburgh a more diverse city. 

“This is phase one, [this is] laying out the facts.” 

Heuck said the Workforce Diversity Indicators Report was the first in a series of similar reports looking at diversity in the work force that the coalition will publish in the near future. Pittsburgh’s average rate of diversity growth, on pace with the national average, Heuck said, “will not do the trick.”

“The share of the labor force claimed by minority workers overall has risen 2 percent in southwestern Pennsylvania since 2002, which is the average rate of growth across the 15 benchmark regions,” the report stated

“What Pittsburgh has is some time,” he said. “We have time to prepare, but if we miss it, that’s on us. There should be a sense of urgency, not only to attract talent but to keep it.”

Hueck also said the report was a “baseline” for determining how to keep minority students in Pittsburgh after they graduate. 

Gabriella Gonzalez, a sociologist with the RAND Corporation, Vera Krekanova Krofcheck, director of strategy and research for the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, and James Futrell, vice president for market research and analysis at Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, also spoke. 

Gonzalez said the report should be interpreted for its real implications. 

“When we look at the results of this report, what we need to think about is, what does this mean for individuals?” he said. “We need collective action on this. It needs to be a concerted effort.”

Black, Asian and Hispanic workers each occupy a small share of the work force, the report said, but the Asian working-age population has “the highest rate of employment of any racial and ethnic group, including whites.” 

Though minority groups don’t have an equal share of the job market, they do have a nearly equal share of income. 

For all minority groups, Pittsburgh ranks well above the benchmark average for income equality. Among the 15 benchmark regions, white workers make, on average, $1,048 more than minority workers per month. But, in Pittsburgh, white workers make only $99 more per month. For black workers, however, Pittsburgh falls below the benchmark average. Those workers make, on average, $1,381 less than white workers per month.

For the other two key minority groups, Hispanic and Latino workers make, on average, $386 less than white workers per month and Asian workers make, on average, $2,224 more than white workers per month.

Candi Castleberry-Singleton, chief inclusion and diversity officer at UPMC, said the report gave her “some degree of reservation.”

“The part that concerns me most is data doesn’t always move people’s hearts and minds.”

She challenged the panel to find ways to apply their findings. 

“We need to think about this not as a diversity issue but as an economic issue where diversity is a solution,” she said. “This is not new, we didn’t wake up one day and diversity was a problem.”

She then challenged the panel to take their report a further step, to a human level. 

“If this doesn’t create a call to action for individuals, I mean CEOs and leaders and executives, then we’ve only given them data, but we haven’t given them a call to action. Do we care enough about the data to do something as individuals?” Castleberry-Singleton said.

In response, Heuck reiterated that the report was only a first step. 

“This is not meant to be merely an academic exercise,” he said. “This is our phase one. It’s data. We’re going to be getting into more of the storytelling, more of thing that we hope will resonate with people. This is all a means to an economic end.”