There are a number of factors that contribute to regional economic development. Like Pittsburgh, regions that aspire to build regional economies that are healthy and competitive, the ongoing growth of and investment in its labor force are critical priorities. Without a talented and skilled labor force, the engine slows down, and workers and business owners, who serve as economic drivers, move on to more competitive regions. However, Vibrant Pittsburgh is working to help ensure our economic competitiveness by building a thriving, diverse and inclusive region.
The greater Pittsburgh area has enjoyed extraordinary press coverage for its economic recovery, affordability, high tech scene, job growth and even foodie culture. The progress that this sports town has achieved has caught the attention of leaders around the world and more millennials who are seeking a great place to live, work and play. The next big challenge for the region, however, is meeting the growing opportunities of the region in light of a declining and aging population.
Vibrant Pittsburgh was established in December 2010 to address these issues with a diversity and inclusion strategy that is designed to attract, retain and elevate demographic groups that are among the fastest growing in the nation but among the smallest in the region. With employers working as a collective, Vibrant Pittsburgh coordinates programs and initiatives that align with regional talent demand. The intentionality of our work and our collaborative approach has contributed to one of the largest increases in the growth rate of workforce diversity in decades. But with only 11% diversity in the region’s workforce, we still have much more work to do to mirror the more than 33 percent diversity representation in the national workforce.
To continue our progress, Vibrant Pittsburgh is utilizing our Regional Workforce Diversity Indicators initiative to make the business case and the economic development case for diversity. We work with professional associations like the local National Society of Black Engineers, Association of Latino Professionals For America, National Black MBA Association, Asian American Chamber of Commerce and more than 500 other civic and professional associations to amplify their efforts and seed the region’s talent pipelines with more diversity.
As we engage more employers in taking action steps with Vibrant Pittsburgh, there is one step that we ask of everyone: assess the diversity of your personal and professional networks.
Social networks can accelerate your ascension to opportunities and build critical contributors to your business and your community. Expanding and diversifying one’s social network may seem, on its face, to be an overly simple request given the complexity of the diversity issues confronting communities across the nation. But consider this. If your region’s powerful networks (what we used to call the old boys club) authentically began including more people of diverse groups, it would immediately add greater diversity to a region’s opportunity pipeline.
Yes, this may sound like a simple step. But for many reasons (inconvenience, discomfort, lack of awareness or lack of familiarity, unconscious and conscious biases, etc.), we fail to do it. Diversity and inclusion is a formidable tool that is at our disposal. If we chose to embrace it, it is also a pathway to a strong and economically resilient region. Facilitating these networks and creating these pathways is the work of Vibrant Pittsburgh.
Melanie Harrington is the president and CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh, an economic development organization.
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Join their efforts at vibrantpittsburgh.org