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MMAC says Milwaukee-area workforce is more diverse amidst challenges

Chuck Quirmbach
Julie Granger and Corry Joe Biddle of the MMAC discuss a diversity report at the MMAC members meeting Tuesday night.

The Milwaukee area's largest business group reports progress on an effort to bring greater diversity to the local workforce. But at a membership meeting Tuesday night of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, the organization revealed there are also signs the effort has a long way to go.

The MMAC initiative is called Region of Choice. The organization partners with 120 employers with nearly 120,000 workers and has pledged to increase Black and Latino employment and representation in management, collectively.

MMAC Board Chairperson Jonas Prising said two years into the effort, even during the job losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is some success.

"Despite a 1% decline in total employment, within the ROC collective, African American and Hispanic/Latino employment still rose 6.2% from 2019," Prising said.

Prising also said there's more diversity in management.

"Total management employment increased by 6.1%. And during that same time period, African American and Hispanic/Latino management employment rose by 23% in the ROC companies," Prising said.

Chuck Quirmbach
Incoming MMAC Board Chairperson Cathy Jacobson, President and CEO of Froedtert Health, promised the MMAC meeting that the Region of Choice initiative will continue.

Prising said the diversity effort is on pace to meet or exceed the five year goals. But the business group has also been conducting management surveys, and some of the answers received are not as favorable. MMAC Vice President Corry Joe Biddle read three of the negative replies to a question about whether the manager's company is a good place to work.

"The volume and pace are challenging right now, and for talent of color we lack a strong, inclusive culture...finding other professionals who share a common background is an issue...I think it's really great if you're white, and even better, if you're a white man," read Biddle.

Biddle said the survey also asked the managers whether they would recommend Milwaukee as a place to live. She said there were vast differences in ratings by race.

"Metro Milwaukee's rating among white managers was 23, while it was 6 for Hispanic and Latino, and negative 37 for African American managers," Biddle said.

Biddle said the area's success at creating a welcoming and inclusive community will affect the effort to attract and retain diverse talent.

The business group said it plans to share the diversity report's findings with local and state politicians in hopes of identifying actions the public and private sectors can take together.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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