By Rhea Riley
The United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County’s Diversity Leadership Society (DLS) announced their new initiative to drop the unemployment rate for local Black Americans by 15 percent by 2025.
“We’re excited to announce this strategic focus designed to reduce barriers to employment for those who are most underrepresented in our employee pool,” said Grady Crosby, vice president public affairs and chief diversity officer at Johnson Controls and a co-chair of United Way’s Diversity Leadership Society. “Increasing opportunities to obtain gainful employment is a community enhancement goal worthy of this strategic focus spearheaded by the United Way’s Diversity Leadership Society.”
The new initiative stems from a noticeable employment gap between Black Americans and white Americans. According to a report by the National Urban League, in 2017, the unemployment rate for white Americans was at 2.7 percent in contrast to the 13.8 percent unemployment rate for Black Americans.
To counterattack this, DLS will implement a four-pronged strategy. The strategy will focus on the criminal justice system, research for talent retention, reliable transportation and education for adults.
Through the strategy DLS will advocate for better laws that expunge public non-violent criminal records for individuals seeking employment, which has been a frequent deterrent.
“It is imperative that the Diversity Leadership Society plays the lead role in advocating for expungement of records for non-violent offenders,” said Jasmine Johnson, USGR government relations and corporate affairs for Pfizer Inc. and a co-chair of United Way’s Diversity Leadership Society. “From barriers to employment to the right to vote, both are critical components to advancing our community and economy.”
According to a 2017 study, Wisconsin has over 60 percent of individuals leaving the state to obtain work. To retain talent as a part of the initiative, DLS will produce a survey tool to research the high volume of migration within the Black community.
The strategy will work towards reliable transportation by supporting the recovery of driver’s license and producing driver’s education programs.
“This initiative will not only assist individuals with driver’s license recovery, but also help bring back universal drivers’ education to students who financially are unable to take such programs privately,” said Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge Derek Mosley, also a member of the DSL. “By doing this, we will drastically improve driving habits and also open up employment opportunities around the region that have previously been unavailable to many in our community.”
DLS will also continue to fund programs that provide services to adults that further their education. Such services that include support for those earning their GED, learning to read, or taking English as a second language (ESL) courses.
DLS is comprised of various donors who have organized around the topic of reducing barriers to employment and advancement. According to Joel Peterson, diversity development and community engagement manager at United Way, the three-year-old donor network began work on this initiative only two years ago.
“Family sustaining employment is paramount in stabilizing our neighborhoods, and United Way is uniquely positioned to address this critical need,” said Peterson. “By convening key institutions from the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors around reducing barriers to employment, we will collectively make meaningful impact in our community.”
United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County funds over 120 programs as well as various non-profits in the area. As one of the four donor networks through United Way, DLS looks forward to working with various programs who are interested in achieving their goal.