Getting Off the Sidelines and Into the Game

Getting Off the Sidelines and Into the Game

The more diverse we make our companies, the stronger they’ll become. Several key demographics are underrepresented in Indiana’s workforce, and this can hamstring success. In order to drive profitability and business opportunity, organizations throughout the state are taking targeted measures to get more people off the sidelines and into the game.

Right now, several projects and partnerships are underway in Hoosier communities that each aim to diversify the workforce in different ways.

Steam for Women in STEM

IUPUI has begun implementing programs to improve the institutional climate and to address inequities in the representation, retention, and advancement of women, particularly women of color, in the tenured ranks of science, technology, engineering, and mathematical science departments.

This will be a three-year project supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program, which is designed to foster gender equity by eliminating organizational barriers in academic institutions.

IUPUI will provide intensive training for both formal and informal school leaders at multiple levels to help them become equity-minded and committed to the goals of furthering women scientists. In addition, this project aims to increase understanding among school leaders of the complex and cumulative way different forms of discrimination – including racism, sexism and classism – overlap and affect women scientists of color.

Project investigators, representing various disciplines and backgrounds, will act as mentors and coaches to ensure that change strategies are sensitive to the needs of all women faculty and are aligned with best practices in the field. An external evaluation led by the Center for Research in Educational Policy at the University of Memphis will provide feedback to guide further activities.

Indy’s Inclusive Initiative

The City of Indianapolis laid out a new roadmap for economic development that prioritizes inclusive growth for all Indianapolis residents. Led by the Indy Chamber and Mayor Hogsett’s office, the strategy will reposition existing incentive programs to advance job opportunity for residents and remove barriers to employment.

There are a lot of different factors that inhibit a person from holding a full-time job, such as childcare, eldercare, transit, and skills training. Things like these keep people out of the workforce to the overall detriment of the city. In fact, Mayor Hogsett commented that while the city has seen significant growth in the last decade it has also seen an 80% increase in poverty in this same timeframe.

Thus, the new inclusive economic development strategy will prioritize four key areas to help more people get into the workforce:

  • Business growth: Increase available jobs by encouraging entrepreneurship and supporting business attraction, retention, and expansion.
  • Skills development: Prepare Indy residents for jobs that pay living wages, which includes improved access to education, job readiness programs, and post-secondary training programs.
  • Physical investment: Increase the likelihood of private market investment, including new housing, commercial development, and brownfield redevelopment.
  • Social capital and support systems: Reduce barriers impeding quality of life, and support community needs including health, transportation, civic engagement, housing, criminal justice reform, and access to childcare.

The new inclusive incentives roadmap makes several policy recommendations to modify current processes for the city’s tax abatement and training grant programs. These include implementing average wage minimums for jobs of employers seeking tax abatement, assuring the presence of health benefits for available jobs, assessing community impact of the employer, and more.

New Center to Advance Disability Employment

Eskenazi Health recently launched the new The Gregory S. Fehribach Center, which will expand efforts to increase employment opportunities for students with physical disabilities at Eskenazi Health and other companies throughout Central Indiana.

Fehribach is an attorney who works throughout the country to create accessibility and opportunity for individuals with physical disabilities. He explained the unemployment rate for students with physical disabilities is significantly higher than their able-bodied counterparts.

Since 2013, Eskenazi Health has offered 116 internships to students with physical disabilities, including 44 internships so far in 2019. The interns have come from 19 colleges and universities, and have interned at Eskenazi Health, Eli Lilly and Company, Riley Children’s Hospital, Health and Science Innovations, Lumina Foundation, Old National Bank, Regenstrief Institute, and the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

As part of their internships, students receive competitive hourly wages, transportation support, and nearby housing free of charge. In addition, a variety of wraparound events and opportunities for professional development are part of the internship.

Interns are recruited from Indiana colleges and go through a rigorous application process. Those who are accepted to the program are held to the same standards as their fellow employees in their respective departments. The program prides itself on assigning meaningful work that benefits both intern and employer.

Only the Beginning

These are just a few examples of numerous other similar initiatives throughout the state that seek to make Indiana’s workforce much more heterogeneous. Behind all of these endeavors is the notion that if we build our teams in a way that incorporates as much diversity as possible, companies will be better positioned to grow. Talent comes in all shapes and sizes – all demographics – and should never be sidelined.