In her address at the African American Chamber of Commerce PowerBreakfast meeting, Feb. 16, new Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Stefani Pashman said the conference is committed to increasing diversity in regional business supply chains and on corporate boards.
“Going forward, we will be guided by three principles,” she said. “We will act intentionally, partner strategically, and demand accountability.”
She said the conference would actively push companies—whether those it is working to attract to the region or those it hopes to help expand—to get more minority-owned businesses into their supply chain. And, as she did in her previous position as CEO of Partners4Work, Pashman will work to expand the conference’s workforce development initiatives to make sure African Americans take part in the region’s growth sectors, such as energy, manufacturing and IT.
When it comes to accountability, Pashman said the conference and its partners will compile and publish the data that show what firms are succeeding or failing in their diversity and inclusion efforts.
“We have to track employment, composition and supply chain inclusion,” she said. “We have to keep those numbers out there.”
She also said the conference will be advocating for criminal justice reform in order to help eliminate barriers to employment and training opportunities faced by Black youth. Rebuilding and strengthening the Black middle class, and making sure African Americans are participating in the emerging regional industries is critical, she said.
In Pittsburgh, she said, Blacks lag behind Whites in every economic category, and on average have two times lower income. Pittsburgh also lags behind all 23 comparable metro areas in racial diversity.
“There are no zip codes where African Americans have the dominant income,” she said. “There are substantial barriers not only to equity, but also to retention and promotion,” she said. It is vital to improve the African American workforce, and we think we can leverage our position, regionally, to improve those conditions.”
During the question-and answer period following her address, Robert Morris University President Christopher Howard asked about the conference’s history—particularly in its role as the driver of the Civic Arena project in the late 1950s that razed the lower Hill District and displaced thousands of Black residents.
“This is sensitive—and we have to own that. Development has to be for all. We have to tell that story and listen to you, so we don’t make those kind of mistakes,” she said. “Now we are focusing on trying to help those who’ve been left behind, who aren’t even in the game.”
After thanking Pashman, Chamber President and CEO Doris Carson Williams welcomed new members—including contractor Emmett Miles—and reminded members that this year marks the chamber’s 20th anniversary, and also acknowledged member Greg Spencer for his receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BSA Whitney Young dinner a night earlier.
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