How the Twin Cities can attract and retain professionals of color

Greater MSP surveyed 1,200 professionals of color in September to find out why so many minorities were leaving the Twin Cities.

Out of those surveyed, 16 percent said they were likely to leave in the next five years. With this in mind, MPR News host Tom Weber explored why Minneapolis struggles to attract and retain professionals of color.

Weber was joined by three guests: Peter Frosch, Greater MSP Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and lead on the "Make It. MSP" initiative, Matt Kramer, President and CEO of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce and Sharon Smith-Akinsanya, founder of The People of Color Career Fair.

To hear their discussion, click the audio player above.

Here are are a few highlights from Greater MSP's survey:

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Stay or leave?

The top reason people stay in the Twin Cities is because they have family living nearby, the study found. The main reason for leaving is listed as "lack of diversity and cultural awareness."

A lack of options for culturally specific amenities, challenges trying to connect with others and experiences of bias and discrimination emerged as key themes.

These themes were present in the community as well as the workplace and the study states that "workplaces are investing in support, but that activity is not necessarily translating to greater impact."

Culturally specific amenities, disparities

The cold Minnesota winters aren't keeping professionals of color away, with only 11 percent calling weather a concern.

Survey participants said a big reason they'd consider leaving is the lack of community events, home ownership opportunities and small businesses that cater to people of color.

They suggest creating more spaces where people of color can gather. That would help meet their needs and also create more opportunities to connect with people with similar interests.

In the workplace

Almost all of those surveyed say they noticed a lack of diversity among leadership where they work. And only half of those surveyed say they could see a clear path for people of color to find advancement in the workplace.

Respondents suggested more training programs for diverse people could help advancement, and more media coverage looking at leaders of color would help them feel better represented.

Discrimination in the community

Over half of the respondents say they either "occasionally or frequently experience bias or discrimination based on race."

They reported that the culture in the Twin Cities promotes, mostly subtle, occurrences of bias.

"A lot of perceptions that I have encountered have been due to people thinking I don't deserve certain things and that they only happen because they need more diversity and/or that they are meeting a quota," one respondent wrote.

Again training was suggested, this time unconscious bias training for employees.