Barriers: "What is Ours to Do"
Theresa Jones will lead a workshop on overcoming barriers to employment for men of color on July 29. The session is designed for all organizations, both nonprofit and for-profit, to take away strategies that they can implement. Click here for details and to register.
By Molly Willms, NPC Guest Blogger
Theresa Jones had been hearing about the high rate of unemployment among black men in Milwaukee for years before she fully understood all of the contributing factors to this problem.
Jones is the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Strategies at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, a large nonprofit healthcare system in Southeast Wisconsin.
WFH recently undertook an analysis of minority male employment within Wheaton and is in the early stages of working on their internal strategy. Jones will share what has been learned and insights at an upcoming Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee workshop.
The rate of black male unemployment in Milwaukee, disproportionately higher than the corresponding rate for white males, has also not improved at the same rate, due to myriad factors, Jones said.
Black males are also disproportionately incarcerated in Wisconsin, and upon release can have trouble finding work, for example.
Jones said many do not indicate a criminal background for fear that it will disqualify them for a position – a move that is guaranteed to cost them if the employer does a background check and finds that they have falsified their application.
“Most employers won’t turn someone with a criminal background away just because there is a criminal conviction,” Jones said, adding that the timing, relevance of the offense and an applicant’s history since the conviction are generally taken into consideration.
Transportation is also an issue, as many jobs are available in outlying areas. Strategies to improve transportation to these areas are being worked on, Jones said. However, there still remain a number of other barriers to obtaining employment like getting and keeping a driver’s license. These struggles can be married to a company’s need to fill positions that may sit open for long periods of time.
“Most organizations hire through an online process. Jobs are posted and then the employer waits for applicants to apply, Jones said. “To really begin to increase hiring, it requires more than that. We have to do more outreach and partnership with other community organizations, schools and colleges, workforce development programs, etc. to identify talent in this population.
Specifically, everyone benefits from “corporate and community responsibility for being intentional about hiring men of color,” Jones said.
The workshop, on July 29, will discuss the challenges and identify a process for conducting an internal analysis. Jones will encourage employers of all types to examine the employment side of the equation in their own organization: asking questions such as, in what capacity are minority men employed in our company? At what level? How much are they paid in comparison to others? How many are currently employed here? For how long?
“Do the math,” as Jones calls it. “Take a look at your own organization and you will, unfortunately, come to understand how that contributes to what community unemployment looks like.”
The workshop will also discuss the employers’ findings and strategies to meaningfully impact the black male unemployment rate, such as working with local training programs, schools, workforce development programs etc. to fill vacant positions.
"It is important to me to ensure that individuals attending the workshop walk away with strategies that they can implement," Jones said.
Jones will also address the role that racism can play in black male unemployment and the “business imperative” of hiring a diverse workforce in all sectors.
This issue is a serious problem within this community as a whole, which is why all employers need to work together to address it.
It can’t just be left up to a single individual employer, Jones said. “We can have greater impact collectively.”