“Segregation is nothing new, and policies, such as Redlining, from nearly 100 years ago still have very real consequences today.”
This is how Mike Siers, senior research manager at the Towson University Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI), started his presentation at the Maryland Workforce Outlook Forum. Held Tuesday afternoon in West Village Commons, this year’s event focused on diversity and inclusion in Maryland’s workforce.
Siers continued his presentation with more sobering statistics regarding employment and racial disparities in Maryland and Baltimore City.
Poverty is more prevalent among African American than Caucasian Marylanders, with 14 percent of African-Americans living in poverty compared to 7 percent of Caucasians. When looking at Baltimore City, the disparity increases dramatically. Twenty-seven percent of African-Americans living in Baltimore City are living in poverty. For Caucasians, that number is 12 percent.
“If a population is economically challenged, then there is a bias against them entering higher education and then getting into the workforce,” noted Siers.
The disparities do not end there.
In Baltimore City, African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to hold lower paying jobs, regardless of education level. “They are essentially being crowded out of higher paying jobs based on implicit bias, policies and economics,” Siers continued.
The RESI team has been working on this research for the past five months and plan to continue this study to include a focus on other races and ethnicities and an examination of segregation across industries.
“Despite the fact that our research found a lot of disparities in the current workforce. The disparities that we found within current college graduates was a lot lower. The path forward for Maryland looks brighter,” said Siers.
The Maryland Workforce Outlook Forum is an annual event hosted by RESI, the MD Governor's Workforce Development Board, the governor's chief policy-making body for workforce development, and the Baltimore Integration Partnership (BIP), a collaborative partnership of anchor institutions, funders, nonprofits and public organizations focused on establishing economic inclusion as the business culture of norm in the Baltimore region
“This event is an amazing opportunity to lift up leaders in economic inclusion and leaders that are tackling new strategies to promote opportunities for individuals that are commonly left behind,” said Kurt Sommer, director of BIP.
Following Siers’ presentation, seven leaders from organizations throughout Greater Baltimore highlighted the innovative strategies they are using to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Dr. Leah Cox, vice president for Inclusion and Institutional Equity at Towson University, noted that it is important to make the economic case for equity and inclusion, adding that workplace discrimination costs businesses $64 billion annually in the United States.
Major corporations, such as BGE, and smaller local businesses already understand the economic case and are putting into place policies that help to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces.
BGE Chief Executive Officer Calvin G. Butler Jr. pointed out that the company works to ensure a diverse supplier base and that its workforce reflects Maryland’s diverse population. The company has put into place diversity goals and has changed hiring practices.
Butler noted that there is comfort in numbers. As businesses, such as BGE, are successful in their implementation of best practices, other organizations follow their example.
“We are trying to lead by example and also increase capacity for other organizations so they too can step into a space and be involved in ways to provide opportunities,” said Butler.
Clair Watson-Minson, workforce strategist at Associated Black Charities, noted that a job does not equate to wealth.
“Let’s be honest, it’s impossible to think that someone making $12 an hour can budget their way to homeownership or dig themselves out of credit card debt or student loans,” said Watson-Minson. “We have to do more.”
More is just what Associated Black Charities is doing.
The organization is currently recording a series of videos focused on financial literacy and education that are specific to certain populations, such as low-income African American workers. The videos will use language that the population uses and highlight skills that they already use.
The series will be launched this summer with videos on savings and credit and then be expanded to include wealth building strategies and other topics later this fall.
“Policies that businesses and governments put in place today will have lifetime impacts. It is important to look at what we're doing and get it right,” said Watson-Minson.
Dialogues and forums like the Maryland Workforce Outlook Forum highlight the strategies and successes that are being enacted by a diverse set of leaders and organizations from many different sectors.
“We have to continue to raise challenging questions about how we grow this work and make it more successful,” Sommer said. “This event is a fantastic intersection of businesses, workforce, policy and research organizations, as well as our anchor institutions from Greater Baltimore that are committed to doing more. I look forward to continuing this partnership and moving this important work forward.”
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland, and BTU-Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore.