Opportunities for Minorities in
Montgomery County, Ohio
Findings and Recommendations
In the past 30 years the Ohio Advisory Committee has undertaken a number of studies on race-related issues in different parts of the State. Studies have focused on housing, employment, hate crime, and police-community relations. This is the first study by the Ohio Advisory Committee that focuses on the city of Dayton and Montgomery County.
The Ohio Advisory Committee comes to the Dayton area to examine equal employment opportunity issues. In the experience of the Advisory Committee, the greater Dayton area is unlikely to be much better or worse than most other cities, villages, and townships in the State regarding equal employment opportunity. The particular degree of equal employment opportunity for minorities in the greater Dayton area might vary from that of other Ohio communities, but the essential issues concerning race and employment opportunity in the city of Dayton and Montgomery County are probably typical in most respects.
The purpose of this study on “Employment Opportunities for Minorities in Montgomery County, Ohio” is to compare the employment practices of large public and private employers in order to discern the existence of patterns and practices tending to exclude minorities from higher paying jobs. The study was limited to an examination of employers with an employment of at least 1,000 individuals in Montgomery County, Ohio, and to managerial and professional positions, because these are typically the highest paying and most prestigious employment positions.
The practice of nondiscrimination is only one aspect of equal employment opportunity. For equal employment opportunity includes not only the practice of nondiscrimination in employment decisions, but also the deliberate and proactive effort by employers to ensure that qualified minorities, women, and people with disabilities are identified and offered opportunities to apply and compete for available employment at all levels of the organization. Such deliberate and proactive efforts are usually set out in an affirmative action plan. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 only prohibits acts of employment discrimination, whereas firms with Federal contracts are also required to undertake affirmative action under Executive Order 11246.
The specific design of this study first determined a difference in minority employment within the managerial, administrative, and professional positions between private employers and public employers in Montgomery County, Ohio. The study then attempted to determine existent barriers to upper level minority employment in the private sector.
1. Racial Attitudes in Montgomery County, Ohio
Finding 1.1. Whites and African Americans are the two dominant racial/ethnic groups in Montgomery County, Ohio. The two groups compose more than 98 percent of the county’s population. The census count of Montgomery County is 573,809. The white population is 463,991 (81 percent), and the African American population is 101,750 (18 percent).
The African American population is generally segregated from the white population and concentrated within the city limits of Dayton. Within the city limits, African Americans are concentrated in the city’s west and northwest districts. The population of Montgomery County outside the city of Dayton is virtually all white.
Finding 1.2. The perception of the quality of race relations is diminishing in Montgomery County. In 1979 the Dayton Daily News surveyed residents on the importance and quality of race relations in the 6-county Miami Valley area. Most whites, 53 percent, responded that race relations were either “excellent” or “good.” In contrast, only 39 percent of minorities thought race relations in the area were either “excellent” or “good.”
The survey was repeated 10 years later in 1989. The responses in 1989 revealed a decline among both groups in the perception of the quality of race relations in the area. Among whites, 39 percent reported that race relations were either “excellent” or “good,” a decrease from 53 percent reported 10 years earlier. Thirty-six percent of minorities thought race relations were either “excellent” or “good,” a decline of 3 percentage points from 10 years earlier.
Finding 1.3. The perception of equal employment opportunity differs between whites and African Americans in Montgomery County. In 1994 and again in 1996, the National Conference for Community and Justice of the Dayton area conducted a survey regarding racial attitudes in Montgomery County, Ohio. The survey revealed a substantial gap between African American and white perceptions regarding equal employment opportunity in access to skilled jobs and opportunities for promotion and advancement.
Most whites do not perceive that American society provides them with better employment opportunities than it does to African Americans. With regard to access to skilled labor jobs, 71 percent of whites believe African Americans have equal opportunity to such jobs. In terms of equal opportunity for promotion into managerial jobs, 62 percent of whites believe African Americans have the same opportunity as whites.
In contrast, only 39 percent of African Americans hold that they have the same opportunity for skilled labor jobs as whites. In addition, only 27 percent of African Americans believe equal opportunity exists for minorities in terms of promotion into managerial jobs.
2. Racial Differences in Employment in Montgomery County, Ohio
Finding 2.1. In Montgomery County, African Americans suffer from a much higher rate of unemployment than whites and have a lower labor force participation rate. The unemployment rate of African Americans is more than twice that of whites. The unemployment rate for African Americans in Montgomery County is 13.1 percent, while the unemployment rate for whites in the county is 4.6 percent.
Similarly, African Americans are employed and/or seeking employment, i.e., participating in the labor force, at a much lower rate than whites in Montgomery County. Whites have a labor force participation rate of 65.9 percent. In contrast, the labor force participation rate for African Americans is 55.5 percent.
Finding 2.2. In the Montgomery County labor force, African Americans are statistically underrepresented in the top two EEO–1 categories, officials/managers and professionals, given their percentage of the labor force. The officials and managers EEO–1 category includes administrators and managers who exercise overall responsibility for the execution of polices and direct individual departments or special phases of a firm’s operations. EEO–1 category professional jobs are occupations requiring either college graduation or experience of such kind and amount as to provide a comparable background.
African Americans are 10.8 percent of all individuals in executive, official, managerial, and/or administrator jobs and 11 percent of all individuals able to perform professional jobs. Analysis of the data shows both rates to be significantly lower than expected given their proportion of the labor force.
Finding 2.3. Among private employers in Montgomery County, African Americans are employed as officials and managers at a rate of 6.3 percent—a utilization rate more than 4 percentage points lower than their availability for such positions. Similarly, with respect to the professional positions, African Americans are 11 percent of all professionals in the Montgomery County labor force, but are just 5.7 percent of the professional work force positions among private employers.
Finding 2.4. Among public employers in Montgomery County, African Americans are employed as officials and managers at a rate exceeding their availability for such positions. The availability rate of African Americans qualified for officials and managers positions is 10.8 percent. At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, African Americans are 13.1 percent of all officials and managers; in Montgomery County, African Americans are 29.4 percent of officials and managers; and in the city of Dayton, African Americans are 27.4 percent of officials and managers.
Finding 2.5. There is a significant difference between public employers and private employers in utilizing African Americans in officer and managerial positions. Statistical analysis demonstrates that African Americans have a significantly greater likelihood of advancing to higher administrative and management positions in the public sector than they do in the private sector.
Finding 2.6. The commitment to equal employment opportunity among private employers appears to be firm specific, rather than dependent upon the types of jobs at the firm. Data analysis shows a wide variance among individual firms in the rate of employment of African Americans in the higher occupational job categories.
One firm included in the study employs African Americans in officials and managers positions at a rate of 13.9 percent. This is a utilization rate on par with the area’s public employers and exceeds the area availability rate of 10.8 percent for African Americans. The same firm displays a similar practice in employing African Americans in professional positions, employing them at a rate of 17.1 percent.
In contrast to this firm, 6 of the 14 firms (43 percent) examined in the study employ African Americans at a rate of less than 3 percent in officials and managers jobs.
Finding 2.7. A substantial disparity in college enrollment persists between whites and African Americans. In 1990, 38 percent of all white high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 24 were enrolled in college. The enrollment rate of African Americans in this age group was 28 percent.
Presuming a similar distribution of talents and abilities between African Americans and whites, the lower college enrollment rates of African Americans suggest a divergence in expectational rewards for additional education between whites and African Americans. That is, despite accepting that there are differences in opportunity between the two groups to attend college, African Americans are nevertheless to some degree demonstrating by their actions that they believe there is a lower likelihood of being rewarded for additional education and training than is the case for whites.
3. Employer Efforts to Effect Equal Employment Opportunity in Montgomery County, Ohio
Finding 3.1. A number of the private employers in Montgomery County are engaging in efforts to promote equal employment opportunity. Four of the area’s 18 largest employers sent representatives to speak at the public factfinding meeting: NCR Corporation, Monarch Marking Systems, Bank One-Dayton, and Standard Register. Representatives from these firms listed a number of initiatives specifically designed to recruit and retain minorities. These initiatives included intern opportunities, outreach to minority communities, mentoring programs, recruitment at predominantly minority schools and colleges, and career fairs.
Finding 3.2. Equal employment opportunity for minorities becomes a reality within an organization when the leadership of the firm actively supports and promotes diversity as a company priority. A commitment to equal employment opportunity from the executive level is essential. Employer leadership that demands equal employment opportunity progress makes a critical difference in fostering successful equal employment opportunity at the individual firm.
Finding 3.3. For equal employment opportunity to be effective with regard to all racial and ethnic groups, the corporate culture of the firm must be comfortable for minority employees. Employers can fulfill their initial commitments to equal employment opportunity by hiring minorities, but such efforts may not manifest long-term equal employment opportunity. If well-trained, well-educated minority employees do not feel part of the business culture, they may be inclined to leave the company.
Finding 3.4. Affirmative action programs in the employment sector, particularly as enforced on Federal contractors by the U.S. Department of Labor under Executive Order 11246, consist of activities to identify, recruit, promote, and/or retain qualified minorities. They are forms of deliberate outreach to formerly excluded segments of society, and not programs of preferences or quotas. The premise of affirmative action is that simply removing existing impediments is not sufficient for changing the relative positions of women, people of color, and individuals with a disability.
The Fundamental Problem
Forty years ago, the practice of racial discrimination in employment was overt and legal. Moreover, such discriminatory practices and policies were accepted by the general public. Such flagrant racist behavior is no longer acceptable to the vast majority of people, white or people of color, living and working in Montgomery County and in other parts of the State.
This is a positive development, but this does not mean that racial bigotry is a thing of the past, or that equal opportunity in employment has become the norm. On the contrary, after 30 years of legislated and funded equal employment opportunity measures and government-enforced affirmative action programs, significant disparities in employment along racial lines continue to persist in the Montgomery County area.
Acknowledging that (1) members of racial and ethnic minority groups are not inherently inferior to members of the white majority, (2) that racial and ethnic minorities have been able to advance into managerial positions with public employers in proportion to their representation in the general population, and (3) there are Federal, State, and local prohibitions against discrimination, the most plausible explanation for the persistence of employment disparities along color lines is:
Pervasive societal barriers remain in place, which preclude equal employment opportunity for minorities.
Denial of the Problem
The removal of the overt vestiges of discrimination has been considered by many in the white community to be a signal that racial discrimination has ended. As a result, in the Montgomery County area, as well as in other communities throughout Ohio, there is a strong sense of denial about racial and ethnic discrimination.
Many white people—by far the dominant racial group—have become unaware of and indifferent about the presence of racial and ethnic prejudice. The lack of consciousness about racial and ethnic prejudice allows individuals to honestly maintain a support for a just and equal opportunity society, without having to accept personal responsibility for racial disparities in employment or working toward a resolution of such disparities.
Despite obvious and substantial disparities between the two races in job classifications and income, two out of three whites in Montgomery County hold that African Americans receive equal employment opportunity regarding promotions. In sharp contrast, only one in four African Americans, the group of people who live with the reality of color discrimination on a daily basis, believe equal opportunity exists for minorities in terms of advancement into management positions.
The real significant difference between employment opportunities for people of color today from that of 30 years ago is that today the “colored” signs hang out of sight, mired in the unconscious, but still influence in a negative way the majority culture’s dealings with color. Moreover, with the “colored” signs out of sight, many go to great lengths to ensure there is no personal examination of the existence of prejudice in their own minds. Hence, there is little open, honest, and meaningful dialogue on this subject by whites. When the topic of racism comes up, some whites avoid the discussion and refuse to critically examine their own internal belief system or the behavior of their organizations.
As a consequence, many white individuals routinely deny any personal culpability for the racial and ethnic disparities that exist. Community leadership, be it political, corporate, educational, or religious, relegates the issue to the bottom of the agenda. As long as individuals are unwilling to acknowledge their role in racial and ethnic injustice, and institutions are unwilling to make racial and ethnic justice a priority, there is little chance that the unfairness along racial lines in this society will be resolved.
The consequences of such denial concerning race relations and equal opportunity are manifested in several observable ways in Montgomery County. One consequence is the partition of the community into two separate groups, between which there is little social interaction. In Montgomery County, the African American and white communities exist as virtually separate communities with little intergroup dialogue.
Separated from the white community, African Americans find themselves relegated to the less desirable jobs. Since there are no visibly hanging “whites only” signs and limited dialogue about the persistence of unequal employment opportunities, there are few avenues to determine and address the fundamental prejudices causing the inequities.
Ignoring the issue of racial barriers to equal employment opportunity, however, does not mute the consequences for the greater community. Individuals who do not believe in the essential fairness of an economic system have limited incentive both to abide by established social rules and to improve themselves through additional education into more productive persons. To the extent that the disenfranchised fail to update skills and invest in further education, the collective productive capacity and general prosperity diminishes. The result is a less affluent and more impoverished community and increased expenditures on social welfare.
Phillip L. Parker, president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke at length to the Advisory Committee on the issue of race relations and the importance of equal employment opportunity in the Montgomery County area. Other chambers of commerce have embarked on programs with their members to promote diversity in management and better and more fair opportunities for individuals from minority groups.
Providing equal employment opportunity and diversity in the workplace involves understanding the differences in cultures and being open to these differences. Diversity can become an asset, because it allows people with different backgrounds to approach problems from different perspectives. In the end, diversity makes organizations and businesses stronger and more competitive.
Responsibility and Recommendation for Action
Equal employment opportunity at all levels and in all organizations does not happen unless there is a commitment to real equal employment opportunity from the leadership of the organization. Where such a commitment exists, minorities experience success in competing for and obtaining administrative and managerial positions. The minority community is thereby empowered to invest in individual skill acquisition and productive assets.
The commitment to equal employment opportunity for individuals who are members of minority racial and ethnic groups is long overdue. The Ohio Advisory Committee asserts:
It is time for the private employers of Montgomery County to make a real commitment to providing demonstrable equal employment opportunity for all area residents.
It is time for the private employers of Montgomery County to become intolerant of racial intolerance and intolerant of the systemic underrepresentation in higher employment categories that persists along racial lines.
It is time for the private employers of Montgomery County to examine why minorities succeed and receive promotions to management positions in the public sector, while languishing in the lower paying job classifications in the private sector.
It is time for the private employers of Montgomery County to seek an explanation for why three out of four African Americans do not believe promotional opportunities are fair.
It is time for the private employers of Montgomery County and for the community as a whole to become interested in learning why a disproportionate number of African Americans do believe that education will not necessarily create better employment opportunities.
It is time for the private employers of Montgomery County to examine their reluctance to come forward and publicly discuss the issue of race relations and equal employment opportunity with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and other community organizations addressing the problems of racial injustice.
It is time for the private employers of Montgomery County to resolve to make a meaningful contribution to the effort of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce in making equal employment opportunity and diversity a priority in Montgomery County.