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Economy & Business

Community, Corporate Leaders Pledge Commitment to Racial Equity in Business Sector

Deanna Garcia

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (left) and B-PEP's Tim Stevens said the corporate community needs to be more diverse, especially in management and board positions.

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The Pittsburgh region has been doing relatively well the last few years, with the region returning to pre-recession employment levels faster than the national average.

But not everyone is sharing in the prosperity. Members of the region's black community are still struggling, said Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP).

“This reality is reflected in the 2012 survey conducted by the National Association for Law Placement, which stated that Pittsburgh had the second lowest percentage of minority partners of the 42 cities represented in the survey,” he said.

Earlier this month, leaders from the Pittsburgh region’s business community and government met to convene the Corporate Equity & Inclusion Roundtable, at Stevens’ prompting. This was aimed at finding ways to increase minority presence in the corporate world. UPMC Chief Financial Officer Robert DeMichiei said some positive things are already happening in the corporate world.

“I think what the issue is, is that we’re not sharing these best practices,” DeMichiei said. “So one of the things that we need to do is, as a corporate community we’ve got to share these best practices, we have to engage in a dialogue where we understand what programs are working, which programs aren’t working and really leverage those best practices.”

Twenty six percent of Pittsburgh's population is black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We are the second least diverse region in the country looking at the top 100,” said CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Dennis Yablonsky. The national average for the top metros is 34 percent. So we’re way, way behind and it’s getting worse over time.”

Yablonsky said the black community has not been able to take part in the region’s recent economic gains at the same rate as many other ethnic groups. Employment levels for blacks is lower than for whites and African Americans are under represented in top paying jobs in the region.

To start to increase corporate equity and inclusion, the roundtable came up with three areas of focus:

  • Retention and elevation of blacks
  • Encouragement of black entrepreneurship
  • Identification and securing of minority suppliers with sufficient capacity and proven performance

There are also three future plans of action:

  • Collect and share best practices, other places seem to be accomplishing more, figuring out what they’re doing right
  • Identify the root causes of disparities, if don’t understand root cause, can’t build effective solutions
  • Evaluate progress and report on it

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the other members of the roundtable will re-convene in one year to measure progress and outline next steps.
Correction: This story originally indicated that CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Dennis Yablonsky said the percentage of blacks on corporate boards or in other corporate positions is dismal.  He in fact did not make those comments.