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How The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association Of Commerce Is Encouraging Diversity

Despite making up 17% of the population, Black workers only make up 10% of the employees in Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce member businesses.

The people who work at big businesses and corporate jobs in the greater Milwaukee area are overwhelmingly white. Even before protests over racial inequity and social justice began months ago, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) had set out to increase Black and brown representation at Milwaukee-area corporations.

Some have criticized past MMAC policies for setting up roadblocks and adding to the disenfranchisement of low wage Black and brown workers in the area. Specifically, the organization's support for right to work legislation and the opposition to a Milwaukee paid sick leave policy.

Tim Sheehy, the current president of the MMAC, defends both of those policy choices. He claims they have helped bring jobs to the area. He acknowledges there are systemic issues that make it harder for non-white people entering Milwaukee’s businesses and says he wants MMAC to be a part of making it easier to diversify these workplaces.

“If we’re going to compete globally, if we’re going to have high-value jobs and a vibrant quality of life for all, we want to make sure that the region is a region of choice,” he says.

Sheehy touts the Region of Choice initiative started by MMAC, a pledge signed by businesses like Harley-Davidson and MillerCoors to work to diversify their workplaces.

“The goal of this effort is to grow the percentage of Black and brown management talent in our companies by 25% over the next five years and grow overall employment by 15%,” he says.

He says that today, Black workers make up just 10% of workers in companies that are members of the MMAC and Hispanic workers make up just 7%. MMAC’s estimates that in the Milwaukee metro area Black people are around 17% of the population and Hispanic/Latino people are around 10%.

“So while I think we’re doing a lot, we’re not doing enough and we have a long way to go to improve the business climate for diverse business owners,” says Sheehy.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.