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Study says inequality causes drag on economy


Pittsburgh, PA -- According to a strategic report released by local public policy group Sustainable Pittsburgh, the economic case is clear -- in order to thrive and prosper in the global economy, the Pittsburgh Region must work to achieve higher levels of inclusion of communities of color and diversity in the workforce.
Inclusion in the Workforce: Positioning the Pittsburgh Region to Prosper and Compete, reviews hard numbers and compelling themes that show equity and inclusion are directly tied to a region’s economic health. The report analyzes racial disparities in employment in our region, reviews the critical role that a diverse workforce plays in improving economic competitiveness, and features numerous recommendations on how the Pittsburgh region can work to remove structural and attitudinal barriers to reduce its racial employment disparity. Recommendations revolve around three principle themes:
- Promoting job growth in a diversity of living-wage sectors;
- Helping African Americans overcome systemic barriers to employment; and
- Generating demand for diverse employees.
“Inclusion in the Workforce explains why, in this global information economy, racial equity and inclusion are the cornerstones of sustained development and a successful, healthy Pittsburgh regional economy,” said Lee Hipps, Sustainable Pittsburgh chair and president of The National Center for Non-Profit Excellence. “Not only is inclusion the right thing to do, but importantly, there is an economic imperative here.”
Sustainable Pittsburgh commissioned PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity, to write the report. Research assistance was provided by Dr. Ralph Bangs and Robyn Markowitz, of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work. The first draft was presented by author Dr. Chris Benner, University of California Davis, at last December's 5th Annual SWPA Regional Equitable Development Summit sponsored by Sustainable Pittsburgh and the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership at the University of Pittsburgh.
Sustainable Pittsburgh and over twenty organizations participated in the report's development, the purpose of which is to increase understanding of the many ways in which reducing unemployment and providing opportunities to a diverse population is critical to the region's bottom line. Inequity imposes high economic costs on virtually every actor in the regional economy: investors, government agencies, business managers, homeowners, renters, the rich and the poor, the idle, and workers alike. Sharp regional disparities stifle growth, slow momentum and eat away at the sense of community that historically binds neighbors -- and communities -- together. For example, according to the report, the 14,000 jobless, underemployed, and working poor in the Pittsburgh region would have had $372 million (2008 dollars) in additional annual earnings in 2008 if African American men and women were employed in full-time and part-time jobs at the same rates and at the same wages as white men and women. This would have translated into hundreds of millions of dollars added to the regional economy, since these workers would spend nearly all of the earnings in the region and this spending would have a multiplier effect.
Sunil Wadhwani, co-chairman and co-founder of iGate Corporation in Pittsburgh, an integrated technology and operations company with 34 offices in 16 countries, said, “As an international businessman, I daily see evidence of the economic bottom line imperative for inclusion in the workforce.”
In support of the strategic recommendations on how to reduce levels of under and unemployment in our region, the report is being disseminated widely throughout the region under a cover letter issued by:
- Candi Castleberry-Singleton, chief inclusion and diversity officer, UPMC - Lee Hipps, chair, Sustainable Pittsburgh and president, The National Center for Non-Profit Excellence - Sala Udin, chair Regional Equitable Development Summit and president, Coro Center for Civic Leadership - Sunil Wadhwani, co-chairman and co-founder, iGate Corporation - Dennis Yablonsky, chief executive officer, Allegheny Conference on Community Development
“As a member of the Board of Directors of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the new Regional Opportunity Center,” Wadhwani said, “I am very pleased that our region is making this agenda a top level strategy for competiveness and quality of life.”
Inclusion in the Workforce paper analyzes racial disparities in employment in southwestern PA, reviews the critical role that a diverse workforce plays in improving economic competitiveness, and recommends policies for enabling us to reach our full potential. According to Candi Castleberry Singleton, chief inclusion and diversity officer, UPMC, "Given the imperative of this agenda, it is no surprise many of the region's leading businesses have formally instituted diversity programs, hired diversity officers, and are benefitting tremendously from giving job opportunities to more persons of diverse backgrounds".
Sala Udin, chair Regional Equitable Development Summit and president, Coro Center for Civic Leadership, said of the report, "Addressing our workforce challenges is a necessity, a prerequisite for building the kind of robust and vigorous region that the Pittsburgh region—with its natural, institutional, historical, and business assets—can and should become.”
Inclusion in the Workforce: Positioning the Pittsburgh Region to Prosper and Compete and the cover letter introduction are available on-line at: For more information contact Sustainable Pittsburgh at 412-258-6642.

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