Thoughts from companies that signed the Region of Choice pledge

The Region of Choice initiative launched at MMAC’s All Member meeting in September 2019.
The Region of Choice initiative launched at MMAC’s All Member meeting in September 2019.

Last updated on July 8th, 2020 at 09:32 am

BizTimes Milwaukee reached out to a third of the companies that signed the MMAC Region of Choice to ask why they did and what steps they have taken to improve their diversity and inclusion efforts. Many of the companies contacted said they are in the beginning stages of this work. Some companies declined to comment, acknowledging they have not yet made progress toward their goals.

Below you will find highlights from our conversations with area business leaders. BizTimes reporters also wrote separate stories going deeper on topics of diversity and inclusion. Those stories include:

Here are some of the other thoughts from area companies on how they are working toward their MMAC Region of Choice goals:

Educational Credential Evaluators Inc.

Margit Schatzman
Margit Schatzman

“We have begun by taking inventory of where we stand as an organization and identified the work we have ahead. We examined the composition of our staff group and board and compared it to the diversity which exists within the Milwaukee and Wisconsin communities. We have defined what diversity can look like in an organization, thinking beyond the standard connotations to include areas such as veteran status and disability.”

“We made the commitment to complete a one-hour certification course related to veteran hiring. There is an opportunity for us to do so much more, and even in the current challenging environment, we are making a commitment to grow our efforts.”

“As a nonprofit organization serving foreign educated people, immigrants and refugees, our work has been impacted by government and public health policies that have reduced the number of people coming to the United States from other countries. These strains on our organization will likely result in impacts on our hiring and promotion. Even so, it is important that we remain committed to the goals of the pledge. It is exactly during difficult times that the actions like ones promoted by the Region of Choice are needed to make a real difference to our region and our country.”

— Margit Schatzman, president of Educational Credential Evaluators


“We’ve planned and executed an event series called The Happiest Hour! A Celebration of Women Leaders in Milwaukee’s Creative Industry, and last summer, Fuze MKE, a think tank-style diversity and inclusion workshop for Milwaukee’s creative industry, in which we challenged the attendees to propose ideas to: 1) make an incremental impact on increasing the racial and ethnic diversity in MKE’s Creative Industry in 2019. 2) Make an incremental impact on reducing ‘everyday sexism’ and ‘clueless’ sexual harassment in MKE’s Creative Industry in 2019.”

“We support the Greater Together 2030 Equity Challenge which seeks to increase the number of Black and Latinx workers in Milwaukee’s creative industry by 1,600 hires by 2030. Our support of Greater Together, and our own events, Fuze MKE and The Happiest Hours, allow C2 to amplify and accelerate the efforts of talent pipelines like Artworks for Milwaukee, Tru Skool, The Milky Way Tech Hub and i.c. stars Milwaukee. What if Milwaukee, the No. 1 most segregated city in the U.S., could spawn the programs that are models for the rest of the county to follow? That’s the opportunity we have, to lead ourselves out of the atrocities of our past into an inclusive, equitable and prosperous future for all Milwaukeeans. C2 is invested in that dream.”

— Erica Conway, president and co-owner of C2

Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin

“To be most effective, Goodwill is working to align Diversity & Inclusion with our business strategy, which is something that must start at the top. Leading across difference is a leadership competency, one that our executive team is committed to developing through a personal learning journey about the systemic barriers black and brown people face every day at work and in the community.”

Angela Adams
Angela Adams

“How we are approaching this is to ensure that this work is a part of our strategic plan. It must be embedded in our operating structure and our talent management. It must be embedded in how we engage in the community. In order to do that, our leadership team needs to understand that not just intellectually but embrace it authentically.”

Angela Adams, vice president of community relations

YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee

“This year, we launched an employee resource group that is for women or those who identify as women. The larger percentage of our staff are female or identify as female, and so we really wanted to have that thoughtful leadership at the table to help support initiatives when it comes to leadership development, career advancement or volunteer engagement, so this was a way in which we were able to do just that.

“Right before we signed the MMAC’s pledge, we were one of 20 YMCAs regionally that hosted an Emerging Multicultural Leadership Experience, where we partnered with a neighboring YMCA in Racine and had some folks from Kenosha and Chicago YMCAs who came and spent a day-and-a-half with us and they were able to learn best practices as it relates to advancing inclusion. They were able to sharpen their own tools in their toolkit to learn more about advancing inclusion and what it takes to be a leader in a diverse community.”

— Shaneé Jenkins, vice president operations of social responsibility


“A few examples of what we have done to implement some best practices to ensure we are living up to our belief and vision include:

  • Implemented HRIS software to enhance our ability to track high potential diverse employees and provide career advancement training and opportunities for those employees in a consistent manner.
  • Modified our hiring processes to reduce unconscious bias, as well as performing an ongoing funnel analysis to benchmark our effectiveness at hiring diverse candidates.
  • Target staffing agencies with diverse candidate pools, including justice involved candidates to fill critical roles on our shop floor as part of our strategy to increase employee diversity by 15%.”

“Metal-Era views workplace diversity, not as a luxury but as a necessity. We believe workplaces must mirror the communities in which they exist and we believe every business should strive to implement best practices to ensure that their workforce is representative of their community. As a manufacturing business in Waukesha, we have a clear opportunity to blaze a trail as a top tier employer of diversity in our area.”

— Tony Mallinger, president and CEO


“We have pledged to increase diversity hires by 30% within our own organization.”

Susan Fronk
Susan Fronk

“We signed (the Region of Choice pledge) because it is necessary for business leaders to take an active role within their organizations to help reduce the disparity we are seeing in our area workforce. And by being a Region of Choice, we will bring needed talent to our area to help businesses grow and succeed.”

— Susan Fronk, CEO and president

CG Schmidt  

“One specific thing … that has the most impact is our new full-time position of a manpower coordinator, Steve Flores. In this role, Steve focuses on hiring for field positions and also dedicates time to developing these employees by coordinating mentoring relationships, training and coaching. One of Steve’s main goals is to increase diversity within our company; he is focused on diversity outreach and recruitment through career fairs geared toward diverse candidates such as the Latino Construction Career Fair, and various community organizations such as Big Step and Building 2 Learn. It’s also important to note that this new role was a promotion from within. Steve began his career at CG Schmidt as a carpenter 20 years ago and has worked to become a leader in the company.”


Janel O’Connor
Janel O’Connor

“We’re in the process of developing a more formal strategic plan regarding diversity and inclusion. The recent events have forced us to take some very deliberate thought about diversity being a strategic priority and goal for us. That is the phase we are in this very moment. Identifying how that will be deployed at the organization to empower our talent and help us drive forward with the ideas and solutions we hope to deliver in the very near future.”

— Janel O’Connor, chief human resources officer

Kane Communications 

“Kane has made diversity in hiring a top priority. Finding diverse talent to join our small business isn’t always easy. In 2019, we began to focus on building a long-term strategy – not just for our firm, but for our industry. Kane brought together a group of local and global stakeholders to kick-start a process in Milwaukee to create youth and registered apprenticeship programs that will build a pathway for more individuals in our community to enter careers in marketing and communications.”

“One of the things I’ve appreciated during this time is I’ve had a number of coworkers, from my direct reports to my peers in the Kane leadership team, reach out to me and say, ‘James, we recognize that you do have a unique perspective as a person of color, having dealt with some of this stuff publicly and also being a leader in this business and a leader in the communications space for a number of years. What do you think? What should we think? How should we approach this or that?’

James Burnett
James Burnett

“I appreciate that my colleagues feel comfortable enough to do that. I’ve talked with peers who are leaders at other businesses who told me that their colleagues, by comparison, are terrified to say something wrong or are walking on eggshells because they’re not quite sure how to pose a question or how to raise an issue about a difficult topic revolving around social justice or racial equity. These conversations go unsaid, and because of that, inadvertently and maybe ironically, there’s increased tension in their workspace. We don’t have that at Kane because of this open book policy.”

— James Burnett, director of strategic public relations


“MGIC is in the early stages of this journey, and we value the ability to learn from others, from global to national and regional groups. We have been excited to embark on purposeful partnerships with:

  • Catalyst, a global nonprofit dedicated to ‘workplaces that work for women,’ providing required training for officers and managers
  • IDEAL, our Business Resource Group, (Inclusion & Diversity Encourage Authentic Leadership) which leverages Inclusion and Diversity programming to foster employee growth and advance our business
  • Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee
  • Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce
  • National Black MBA Association
  • National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America (NAMMBA)”
Concepcion Guerrero
Concepcion Guerrero

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s literally within the last year or so that MGIC has really grasped that initiative of diversifying the workplace. Before that, (the company would tell employees), ‘We know that’s what you want, we hear your voice. We know we should be doing it,’ but within the last year, they’ve really buckled down and it’s really come from that support from the executive and management level as well. It’s really nice to see, especially for me, as an employee who has been here for quite a bit of time to see that difference, not just hear about it, but to see what MGIC is doing.”

— Concepcion Guerrero, channel strategies specialist


WEC Energy Group

According to executive chairman Gale Klappa, the company has a number of initiatives underway, including training on unconscious bias and building inclusive teams; an Emerging Leaders program that helps employees in non-supervisory roles develop leadership skills; employee-led groups like the African American Business Resource Group, Listo!+ and Women’s Development Network; a partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools to provide paid internships to students; and being an active member of the Wisconsin Energy Workforce Consortium, a nonprofit group of utilities working to address the need for a qualified, diverse workforce.

Old National Bank

Kevin Anderson

Over the years, Old National Bank has developed 12 Associate Resource Groups, including African American Business Resources, TODOS Latino Associate Resource, Women LEAD and Military Veterans Resource Group.

“Every year, we review our goals for the advancement and opportunities for racial minorities inside our company. Those goals are not just at the corporate level. Those filter all the way down through our organization.”

— Kevin Anderson, Wisconsin region chief executive officer

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