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Local organization sending surveys to Dane County companies to collect data on racial disparities in employment

Dr. Richard Harris

The African American/Jewish Friendship Group, Inc., a not-for-profit civic group located in Madison, will be sending an anonymous survey to companies in Dane County and the city of Madison today requesting data on the number of African Americans in the company’s workforce.

The organization is putting its efforts towards positioning Black people and people of color in jobs and careers within the Madison area. Dr. Richard Harris spoke to Madison365 about the significance of the survey and his hopes for what the survey results will produce for Black people and businesses in Madison.  

“About eight months ago, I suggested that we set up a committee to review the low number of Black people employed as managers, executives, presidents, high-level positions in the Madison area,” said Harris. “As well as being named to boards that are prestigious and high paying.  I did that because I talked to a number of people at my church. I raised this at our meeting and we set up a Social Concerns Committee.  I’m the chair of the committee and we decided to try to find out the percentage of African-Americans, as they say, in total managerial groups. And we passed off the survey questions.”

The committee responsible for the survey includes Denise Gotautis, William Greer, Dr. Richard Harris, Jerry Sternberg, and Bruce Thomadsen. They put together a survey of seven questions asking Madison businesses about how many people they employed, how many were African American and what company-based plans each business had for recruiting, hiring, and supporting a diverse workforce. They also asked what percentage of African Americans were in the total managerial group, total executive group, and on the boards of the businesses. Attached with the survey were six articles about racism in Madison and Wisconsin, to provide context to businesses about life for African Americans in the city. 

“And we passed out articles about life as an African-American in Madison,” said Harris. “The eight articles were written about racism in Madison. Because we found out that a large number of white people don’t believe that there’s that much racism in Madison.”

The articles and survey questions sent to businesses will provide context and data about the lack of Black Madison residents in businesses. The results from the survey will be available around the middle of October. They sent an invitation to 1,000 businesses in Madison to participate in the survey, and 613 responded. The Social Concerns Committee is looking forward to the results from the survey because it will give them more information about what needs to be done to make Madison businesses more inclusive. 

“Well, first of all, it’ll be enlightening,” said Harris. “Second of all, we want to get it out to the community and to these businesses. We have the names of two women that we’re going to recommend that they talk to, to help them recruit more Black people for higher-level positions. Because most of them have said they need help contacting Black people. We wanted to involve the Urban League of Greater Madison and the Nehemiah Foundation because they provide assistance for businesses to recruit Black people.”

Supportive organizations for the African American Business Survey include the 100 Black Men of Madison, Arbor Covenant Church, The Boys and Girls Club of Madison, Community Shares of Wisconsin, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Dane County Executive’s Office, The Jewish Federation of Madison, Just Dane (Formerly Madison Urban Ministry, Madison Mayoral Office, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, NAACP Dane County, Nehemiah Corporation, The United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison, and the University of Wisconsin Union.

For more information about the survey and the African-American/Jewish Friendship group, contact Dr. Richard Harris, dr.harris@genesissocialservices.com