Milwaukee area creatives call on employers to hire 1,600 minority employees by 2030

Say industry should mirror the rest of the metro area workforce

MIAD is among the initial partners on the Greater Equity 2030 initiative.

Last updated on November 22nd, 2019 at 11:14 am

Members of metro Milwaukee’s creative industry are calling on their firms to hire at least 1,600 minority employees in the next 10 years.

The new initiative, spearheaded by nonprofit organization Greater Together, is based on research by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that highlights the racial disparities in the region’s creative fields. The report indicates that an estimated 1,600 minority hires in creative fields are needed by 2030 in order for the industry to mirror the rest of the metro area workforce.

Greater Together announced the Greater Equity 2030 initiative Thursday. Initial partners include Cramer-Krasselt, BVK, Hanson Dodge, Sosh, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Mindpool Live and SRH Marketing. Other supporters include the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion, Imagine Milwaukee, MKE/LAX, Milwaukee People’s Flag, Heil Family Foundation, Astor Street, NO Studios and 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. Partners have contributed $50,000 and sponsors have given $76,000 in support of the initiative so far, according to Greater Together’s website.

According to the UWM research, there are fewer than 2,000 black and Latino employees out of the total metro employment of 15,000 in the creative sector, which includes music, public relations, writing and editing, photography, design and marketing, film-making, professional athletics and broadcasting.

The UWM research findings show particularly wide gaps in certain fields, including:

  •  1.2% of Milwaukee photographers in 2006-’10 were African American, while African American employees represented 11.1% of the metro area’s total employment
  • 1% of Milwaukee’s writers and authors were Latino, while Latinos represented 7.1% of the region’s overall employment

However, the under-representation of African American and Latino workers in creative occupations isn’t just an issue in Milwaukee, according to Marc Levine, founding director of UWM’s Center for Economic Development and the study’s author.

“Milwaukee ranks particularly poorly among the largest metros in the degree to which blacks hold [creative industry] jobs, but overall, Milwaukee’s racial disparities are more or less in line with national patterns,” the study said.

Several creative industry executives have pledged their support for the initiative, including Ken Hanson, former CEO of Milwaukee-based Hanson Dodge and founder of Greater Together.

“Creativity is the heartbeat of our culture and the key to our future. It deserves full participation,” he said.

“We’re in a business that must create work that resonates with all types of people,” said Betsy Brown, executive vice president, and general manager of Cramer-Krasselt. “It’s important that our employees are reflective of the world we live in. Relying on the same sources of talent yields the same type of talent so our recruiting efforts must aim to reach talent that is underrepresented in our industry.”

Xavier Ruffin, creative director of Cynosure Creative Agency in Los Angeles, said he moved from Milwaukee to LA to find more culturally diverse and sustainable creative opportunities that he could bring back to the city. Cynosure Creative Agency is a pro-bono partner of Greater Equity and employs several Milwaukee natives.

“It’s imperative that we focus not only on cosmetic diversity but actual equity in representation in an industry that does so much shaping of public opinion,” Ruffin said. “Milwaukee loses too much of its homegrown talent due to a lack of opportunity and space for creative growth and I believe the Greater Equity initiative in partnership with the professional creative community can change that.”

As part of the effort, Greater Together said it will partner with Mayor Tom Barrett’s internship program to place 60 Milwaukee Public Schools juniors and seniors in internships at 30 creative industry employers next summer.

The Greater Equity 2030 challenge will formally launch on Dec. 4 with a presentation of the UWM research and panel discussion at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.

The effort is one of a growing number of efforts to foster greater diversity and inclusion in the Milwaukee area. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has an initiative aimed at increasing the number of minorities in management positions. A recently formed nonprofit, the African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee, is focusing on growing and retaining African American talent in the region.

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.