Madison-area businesses still struggle to diversify their workforces

Companies are not there yet in terms of diversity

A place of employment is not truly a “best place to work” unless that company is making an effort to train and hire a diverse group of employees. That’s why Madison Magazine partnered with the Madison Region Economic Partnership, or MadREP, on this year’s Best Places to Work feature to improve on the diversity-related questions sent to nominated businesses.

Past Best Places to Work surveys have included questions related to diversity, but this year MadREP representatives helped revise those questions along with Quantum Workplace, the employee-engagement software company that administered the survey and ranked businesses for this project.

The results echo what many other analyses of local diversity surveys and reports have concluded — Madison-area businesses are not as racially diverse as they could be, and there is plenty of room for improvement.

MadREP President Paul Jadin says the lack of diversity in the local workforce is one of the Madison region’s “biggest threats.” Jadin says the outlining of these serious issues goes back to the Race to Equity baseline report released in 2013.

“We need to make the changes necessary to recruit, retain and promote more persons of color into the management-level ranks of our county’s major nonprofit, public and private sector employers,” reads the 2013 report, which was a call to action to address Dane County’s racial disparities.

To better track the region’s progress, MadREP launched a diversity survey of its own that has been conducted every year since 2015. The 2019 survey reports that the majority of the Madison region’s nonwhite workers in supervisory positions, on boards of directors, in top-level leadership positions and in the total workforce are still underrepresented in comparison to the nonwhite population percentages.

When MadREP published its 2019 survey in June, the organization’s vice president of talent and education, Gene Dalhoff, said, “While a number of the metrics measured in the survey are moving in a positive direction, other results reveal significant opportunities for improvement.”

“This helps us to understand where to focus our workplace diversity and inclusion efforts, both at the individual company and broader regional level. There is still much work to be done in our region before we are seen as a model for diversity and inclusion in the workplace,” he said.

The statistics relating to diversity in Madison Magazine’s 2019 Best Places to Work survey results were similarly disappointing.

In the survey, 21 businesses — some of which didn’t respond to every question — collectively reported that 242 senior-level management positions were filled by white people. Collectively, those same surveyed companies reported six Hispanic/Latino senior-level management leaders, four Asian American leaders and four other nonwhite leaders. None of the surveyed businesses reported a black or African American employee in a senior-level management position.

Four of the 21 businesses reported having a written diversity statement, while five responded that a diversity statement was in the works for the coming year. Five of 21 reported having a dedicated staff member responsible for diversity and inclusion efforts, but only one of those five companies had created a full-time position dedicated to the issue.

“As with last year, it has been difficult to find a company that truly stands out in both racial diversity and in their diversity and inclusion initiatives,” says Cassie Neary, director of partnerships for Quantum Workplace.

But some of the businesses’ responses about diversity and inclusion efforts demonstrate that their companies are slowly working toward a more equitable workplace.

Survey respondent Rochelle Guastella of Artisan Dental LLC reported that the company is “participating in BCorporation’s Inclusivity Challenge to learn ways that we can be more diverse and inclusive,” wrote Guastella. “Every team member, patient, vendor and community member is treated with the same dignity and respect regardless of their differences including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin and political beliefs.”

WEA Member Benefits reported that it strives to have a workforce that is representative of the surrounding community. “We partner with various diversity-focused groups in the area to help promote opportunities within the company to diverse demographics,” wrote Mike Beringer of WEA Member Benefits.

Agrace survey respondent Andy Boryczka outlined the hospice and palliative care center’s three approaches to diversity: 1) ensuring an internal environment that is culturally competent, 2) identifying and removing unnecessary hurdles to more diversity in hiring, and 3) actively seeking out connections in the community and sources of diverse candidates. Boryczka also noted Agrace’s staff training and education initiatives that touch on the value of diversity and address implicit bias, as well as Agrace’s strong partnerships with diverse organizations, including Centro Hispano and Madison College. Partnerships help reach diverse populations — MadREP partners with the Urban League of Greater Madison on MadREP’s annual summit, among other initiatives.

“Working with [entities] like the Urban League to guarantee that we’re getting more people trained among populations of color is going to be absolutely critical,” says Jadin. “If we have the ability to show that our boards, both private and nonprofit, are diverse and our workforces are diverse, then you’re going to see our economy be more productive. Studies have clearly shown that those companies that have that kind of diversity are enjoying a lot more creativity, a lot more diversity of thought and therefore more productivity within their workforce.”

Click here for more Best Places to Work 2019.