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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Workplace Diversity Low In Pittsburgh Region

Perry Quan
The "Strip Mural" on the side of the Hermanowski Building by Carley Parrish and Shannon Pultz in the Strip District.

Flashback to Pittsburgh in the 1950s and 60s: steel mills thrived, the economy boomed and the region was a destination for minorities looking to secure a job and start a life.  This reputation, however, began a decline throughout the next couple decades.  In a study released this year by Pittsburgh Today and Vibrant Pittsburgh, the area’s workforce ranked lowest among 15 comparable regions. Pittsburgh Today director Doug Heuck says the problem started more than 30 years ago. 

“Minorities and the African American population specifically were disproportionally hit by the collapse of steel and economy,” said Pittsburgh Today director Dough Heuck.  “And after that time…there wasn’t job growth to attract or to be a magnet for the other kind of minority groups that naturally went to so many other places.”

Heuck and Vibrant Pittsburgh President and CEO Melanie Harrington have partnered in the creation of survey, which asks residents to supply data on their ethnic or racial background and their thoughts on the diversity of the region.  They say they plan to compile the information and look at options to recruit more diverse talent into Pittsburgh.

Harrington thinks the high concentration of students in the region could help diversify the city, however, retaining this population is difficult.

“We have to put forth a very viable and competitive proposition for these young people,” she told Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer.

Currently, Heuck says Pittsburgh is attracting diverse populations at a similar rate to other cities, but they’re starting at a much lower point.  The diversity survey can be found here.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.