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The diversity dividend

Should Rochester be more open to diversity?

That is the central question posed by “The Diversity Factor,” a two-part series published this week and last in the Rochester Business Journal. Written by Smriti Jacob, the articles look at the experience of Rochester’s minority young professionals—their ambitions and frustrations.

As described in the series, Rochester has many talented minority young professionals who have decided to build their careers here. But others, believing that greater openness to diversity—and thus opportunity—lies elsewhere, have left our community.

That perception is held by some of the best and brightest young professionals in Rochester.

Are they right? Is Rochester, a city whose top elected official is a young black woman, a place where minorities face inordinate obstacles?

Getting a clear picture from census data is not easy. But research done for the series by the Center for Governmental Research Inc. suggests an answer.

As CGR chief economist Kent Gardner wrote in last week’s issue, “this is a complicated story,” but the hard numbers say opportunities for blacks here—including those holding at least a bachelor’s degree and in managerial jobs—lag other cities examined.

For progress, we need minority young professionals to remain here as they rise in the ranks so they can be models and mentors for those just starting out. Fortunately, as Jacob’s articles relate, many are making that commitment.

Moving forward also will require a greater awareness among companies here that diversity makes business sense. In fact, it can be a powerful competitive advantage. Again, there are encouraging signs that a growing number of employers understand this.

And finally, frank conversation throughout the community is needed. People like those interviewed for “The Diversity Factor” are helping to make that happen.

It’s hard to know for sure whether Rochester’s high level of concentrated poverty in part explains why minority young professionals here face a tougher climb. But helping them to succeed and play leadership roles surely is key to solving that broader problem.

8/12/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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