Exec: Region Must Embrace Diversity

Ervin Dyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 17, 2007

More than 250 business and civic leaders gathered Downtown yesterday to discuss how Pittsburgh could embrace diversity and use it to spark a more global economy for the region.

“We’re not growing as rapidly as the national average, and we need to turn that around,” said Jim Rohr, chief executive officer of PNC Financial Services Group and chairman of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. From individual companies to municipal leaders, “We have to make better use of our diversity,” he said.

Sunil Wadhwani, chair and co-founder of iGate, a global technology and operations firm based in Pittsburgh, echoed the theme in his keynote address.

Diversity has become critical to economic growth, he said. Businesses and regions that have embraced it are thriving.

This is the region’s first DiverseCity Festival and Symposium.

The four-day event began more than a year ago when physicians, attorneys and other professionals gathered for morning meetings to address the dearth of diversity in their workplaces.

Pittsburgh must be attuned to diversity concepts, said Mr. Wadhwani, because the area’s low birth rate, high death rate and low rate of immigration put it on pace to experience a worker shortage in the near future. Building a diverse work force is a remedy.

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Mr. Wadhwani said the most successful workplaces, like Google, Nike and American Express, have already tapped into building multicultural workplaces and many have minorities in top leadership posts.

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“We have to understand on a gut level that not attracting new workers and a more diverse work force is a threat to the economy.”

Companies can’t just sit back and wait, he said. They must “go after workers, find them and attract them to the region,” with housing assistance, bilingual education and other services. “A proactive approach is critical.”

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