MMAC’s Region of Choice companies will look to add 272 minority managers by 2025

Effort also broadens focus to include educational attainment

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The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce set specific targets for increased hiring and promotion of minorities as part of its Region of Choice initiative, which was launched in the fall of 2019.

The plan called for a 15% increase in overall employment of African Americans and Hispanics and a 25% increase in the number of management employees from those groups by 2025.

With more than 100 companies signed on to the initiative’s pledge, MMAC released data Tuesday to set a baseline for the effort.

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There are 15,901 management employees at Region of Choice companies, according to MMAC, including 607 African Americans, making up 3.8% of the total and 480 Hispanic or Latino employees, 3% of the total.

Hitting the 25% target by 2025 would add 152 African American and 120 Hispanic managers across the metro area.

Those same companies have 122,131 total employees, including 12,125 African Americans, around 9.9% of the total, and 6,489 Hispanics, around 5.3% of the total.

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Hitting the 15% target would add 1,819 African American and 973 Hispanic employees to the Region of Choice companies.

There are around 140,000 employees across all of the companies that have signed on to the Region of Choice pledge. A list of companies that have signed the MMAC Region of Choice pledge is available here.

“Racial disparities are perhaps the greatest single factor holding the Milwaukee region back from reaching its full potential,” said Tim Sheehy, president of MMAC. “Employers participating in the Region of Choice pledge acknowledge their responsibility to be part of the solution. They also recognize what study after study tells us: Building more diverse teams leads to better decision-making and ultimately boosts a company’s bottom line.”

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Jonas Prising, chairman of the MMAC board and chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup, said the organization’s board had met in small groups in recent months to develop strategies to provide additional direction for the effort.

“This must be a movement, not a moment,” Prising said. “Accountability is a commitment necessary for the future. The next five years should be marked by one determined step, one specific action and one measurable result at a time.”

The strategies approved by the MMAC board include improving the recruitment, retention and advancement of Black and Brown talent; increasing educational attainment and career development opportunities for Black and Brown talent; and supporting wealth creation partnership and entrepreneurship.

Specific supporting actions for each strategy will be refined as the initiative evolves, but some of the recommendations include:

  • Facilitate business community peer group exchanges to more rapidly scale best practices.
  • Build resources that help employers improve their recruiting, retention and advancement efforts.
  • Produce an annual Region of Choice report with aggregated corporate employment data.
  • Implement a regular survey to gauge improvements in corporate culture.
  • Through the MMAC Education Committee, continue to aggressively pursue policy changes to drive equitable resources for all children in the city of Milwaukee.
  • Better align corporate investments by mapping resources focused on neighborhoods.
  • Develop corporate partnerships and supplier diversity goals as options for companies participating in the ROC.
  • Establish a directory of African American and Hispanic/Latino businesses to promote with the broader business community.
  • Develop best practice sharing programs for corporate partners and minority businesses.

Sheehy said the supplier diversity options would be in addition to goals for hiring.

“Some companies are going to make better progress doin it through supplier diversity than they are through diverse hiring,” he said.

The strategies approved by the MMAC board also incorporate a broader approach to tackling racial disparities by including educational attainment as part of the initiative’s focus.

Sheehy said specifically the organization will seek to identify the number of quality educational seats in the region and then direct business community resources to help increase the number of those seats. The approach would be agnostic to whether a school is public, charter or voucher, he said.

“The business community has to remain an engaged partner,” Sheehy said.

He added that disparities in educational attainment are “not an excuse for a lack of progress.”

Julie Granger, executive vice president at MMAC, said the Region of Choice initiative can’t achieve its larger goals without also addressing educational attainment.

The broadening of the initiative’s focus is also a result of the attention paid to racial disparities over the summer following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Louisville and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.

Sheehy said the resulting protests and attention on racial issues has fueled and informed the movement, adding many executives are spending more time listening to their Black and Brown employees.

“I think that’s really influenced how companies are acting and how they are taking this on,” he said.

Sheehy also acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has made the Region of Choice work more difficult, including limiting the ability to hold events to share best practices. At the same time, it did nothing to eliminate the need for the initiative.

“If we’re not successful, we’re just not going have the talent base that these companies want to draw on,” he said.


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