African American employees of the City of Madison are more likely than their white colleagues to feel they are treated differently because of race, under more pressure to change, and that they would face negative consequences for reporting unfair treatment, according to a report released yesterday by the City’s Multicultural Affairs Committee.

The 13-member staff committee initiated the survey last year and sent it to all City employees last June. A total of 708 employees responded; of the responses, six percent were African American, five percent were Latino and 82 percent were white, which closely resembles the racial makeup of the City workforce as a whole.

Among the findings of the survey results:

  • 60 percent of black employees said they had been treated differently because of their race, compared to 29 percent of Latinos and six percent of white employees
  • 44 percent of black employees said they felt their co-workers did not accept their personal traits, compared to 22 percent of multi-racial respondents, 21 percent of Latinos and 12 percent of whites.
  • A majority of both black and white employees — 54 percent of each — said their supervisor valued diversity
  • 69 percent of white employees viewed relations between different races in the workplace as positive, compared to 41 percent of blacks
  • 55 percent of black employees feared retaliation if they reported unfair treatment at work, compared to 31 percent of whites.
  • 44 percent of black employees said they had personally witnessed a race-based incident at work, compared to 13 percent of whites.
  • 20 percent of black employees said they had witnessed a race-based incident and not reported it, compared to 11 percent of whites.

“I’m not surprised by the report,” said Deputy Mayor Gloria Reyes, who serves as the mayor’s liason to the Multicultural Affairs Committee. “Is it concerning? Definitely yes. Is this something we’re working on? We are.”

Reyes said City leadership are working to address racial equity among City employees as well as the broader community.

“The media are twisting it into another thing Madison is doing wrong,” she said. “We are among other cities that are facing these challenges. What makes Madison different is we are beyond just talking about it. We are actually doing something. We’ve been doing a lot of work on microaggressions and implicit bias and having a lot of extensive training on that. It’s not going to happen overnight. This didn’t happen overnight. This is way before my time, way before the mayor’s time. It has just happened over the years and nobody has done anything about it. We commend our employees for stepping up and saying ‘Hey, this is what’s going on, this is what we’re experiencing,’ not letting it fester.”

Reyes said private businesses and organizations would benefit from doing a similar survey of their own.

“All organizations and private business should do this type of analysis,” she said. “We are promoting diversity, we are recruiting diversity, but the environment inside organizations doesn’t change. So we have problems with retention and people leave and we wonder why Madison is still having trouble.”

The full report, including the committee’s recommendations, is available to download here.