Dane County government ‘bright spot’ for Black employment

A survey of employers in the Greater Madison area shows that African Americans are consistently not getting key advancement or promotion in business and in many other sectors. Despite this, a recent report from the African American-Jewish Friendship Group of Madison refers to Dane County government as a “bright spot” by employing African Americans at rates that equal or exceed the percentage of African Americans living in Dane County.

In the Dane County area, the percentage of the population identifying as African American is 5.5%. In Dane County government, the percentage of each survey category employing African Americans (non-professional, professional, administrative, total board) equals or exceeds the percentage of African Americans living in Dane County. Roughly 35% of African Americans in Dane County government work in professional or administrative capacities. The county not only has a workforce diversity plan, but an office dedicated to the plan.

Roughly half of the employers in the survey had hiring plans to increase diversity, yet an analysis shows that, in many cases, just the presence of a plan has little relationship with the employment of African Americans as a whole or in administrative or supervisory positions. Success in attracting Black employees and students varies depending upon the employer’s motivation to do so. Obstacles of location, salary, and institutional racism can be overcome by persistence, planning, empathy, and cultural competence at the executive level.

The report acknowledges the city of Madison, Dane County, and the Madison Metropolitan School District have made real strides in recent appointments of African Americans to top agency posts, such as the city of Madison police chief, Dane County sheriff, and superintendent of Madison Metropolitan School District.