Urban+Out asks how- and finds answers?
Urban+Out (urban-and-out) is a social impact organization founded in 2011 to address the critical need for more community- and capacity- building spaces, opportunities, and resources for diverse LGBTQ professionals of color. Since then we have engaged 1,000 individuals, held 30+ events in 7 markets, and worked with two dozen partners. Our programs build these spaces, opportunities, and resources, and disrupt those that won't.
Urban+Out launched in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which had exacerbated already deep inequities in American life. Those gaps have not narrowed and some have even widened. Some us have seen progress, but throughout our history incremental individual access has masked- and perpetuated- institutional barriers to opportunity and equity.
Today, the black unemployment rate is twice that of whites and has remained so for fifty years, in both booms and busts; yet the wage gap is wider than it's been since 1979. Black and brown children are disproportionately disciplined in our schools (which are more segregated now than in 1980), while adults are disproportionately scrutinized at work. Black and brown households are worth less than 1/10 of white households and it will take 228 years to close the gap. Black and brown people are 2.5-3x more likely to live in poverty than whites. And the incarceration rate for Black men is 6 times that of white peers, higher than even in 1960.
LGBTQ professionals of color start out behind white peers, and are falling farther behind, with few pathways to leadership. A black student has the same chance of getting a job as a white high school dropout, and 56% of recent black graduates are in non-college jobs, compared to 45% of all graduates. While higher education bestows enormous benefits for black and brown professionals, undermatching and financial costs limit access.
Lack of role models, networks, pipelines, and mentors, persistent bias in hiring and promotion, and institutional racism and homophobia, have created a dismal lack of access to and representation in workplaces across all sectors- from politics to finance to philanthropy. Tech's issues are well-known, but crises of diversity are universal. Even nonprofits, which serve mostly people of color, have an 82% white workforce.
By Sector: People of Color as...
Leadership is even less representative. Only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs and only 10% of nonprofit CEOs are people of color. The 115th Congress, sworn in January 2017 as the most diverse in history, still falls well short of substantial representation, with only one fifth of Members being women (compared to 51% of the electorate), and only 10% people of color in the Senate. Moreover, the vast majority of Members of color are elected from minority-majority areas, emblematic of roadblocks in place for black and brown politicians at the state and federal levels. And last year was a banner year for diversity at the Academy Awards, but only after no black person had been nominated in a major category in the previous two years, spawning #oscarsowhite.
Even in sectors where the workforce or consumer base has become more representative, leadership lags far behind. Libraries are at the front line of empowering the first minority-majority generation of Americans but only 11% of their leadership is of color. At foundations, people of color are well- represented among program officers, but at 8%, CEOs of color are scarce. In theatre, a majority of administrative roles are filled by women and/or people of color, yet, the vast majority of artistic and executive directors are white men. A report revealing the severe lack diversity at New York City museums prompted an ultimatum from Mayor Bill DiBlasio to diversify, or lose funding.
In some places, ground is being lost. The leadership in both finance and philanthropy has actually become slightly less diverse. While the ranks of Asians and Hispanics have expanded in high finance, representation of Black executives has fallen in the last five years, to a dismal 2.6% at the big banks. In 3 of the 6 biggest banks, that downward trend extends to all Black employees. Nonprofit leadership is extremely white, and has gotten whiter. The percentage of white CEOs, Board members, and number of all-white boards all rose in the last two years.
Similar barriers to career and leadership development in the wider economy limit the capacity of leadership and entrepreneurship within our communities. In an economy where almost all net job growth comes from startups, there is scant access to capital for entrepreneurs; as little as 1% of venture capital ends up black hands. While the vast majority of nonprofits remain overwhelmingly white in staff and leadership, some of the most vital work for LGBTQ people of color is being done by those organizations founded and led by LGBTQ people of color. They are almost universally under-resourced, under-funded, and under-staffed, with little access to funding of scale, best practices, professional development, and board recruitment.
These challenges mean many things. Most critically it means that the worth of LGBT people of color continues to be undervalued and undermined by processes, practices, and systems implicitly and increasingly unfair and unequal. It means that the movement to confront and overcome them must be multifaceted, complex, and holistic. For us, it means building- community, capacity, and social capital.
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