By Brenden Rearick

As Pittsburgh continues to shift its industries to the cutting edge of tech and health, so too is it shifting toward a more inclusive and progressive environment for the people filling those roles. For the last four years, Vibrant Pittsburgh has been chronicling this change with its Vibrant Index Report on the city’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) scene and how local organizations are making the city a better place for all.

The inaugural 2018 report set the tone for the project, pulling in 50 organizations from the city to participate. In 2020, Vibrant Pittsburgh added a focus on mental health and how companies responded to the instantaneous need for work-from-home resources during the pandemic. That report saw a major uptick in participants, with 78 organizations responding to the survey. 

More than 100 organizations participated in the 2022 report published in August. This year’s report focuses on companies that are creating welcoming environments and providing paths to equity through DEI classes and employee/business resource groups.

The report examines whether companies have employee-friendly policies such as paid non-federal holidays and respect employees’ pronouns. The presence of resource groups is emphasized — these groups educate organizations on how to  hire a more diverse workforce, and how to create an environment in which women, people of color and other marginalized groups can climb the corporate ladder.

Sabrina Saunders Mosby, president and CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh. Photo by Emmai Alaquiva courtesy of Vibrant Pittsburgh.

When it comes to responses, there is much to celebrate: 96% of the 104 participants have a written diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) statement. Over half offer DEI courses on race, unconscious biases and bias awareness. Trans-inclusive healthcare is covered by more than 40% of participants, up 9% from 2019.

With all of the good news, though, there are still plenty of less savory figures to mull over. Only 37 of the organizations offer resource groups, and not all of these companies offer paid time to employees to participate in these groups. Only 55% of the organizations offer parental leave, and those benefits often extend only to the parent who may be pregnant.

Participation in the survey itself has shown to be a positive force on a company’s DEI record. Take, for example, the 2021 data on trans-inclusive healthcare. Among the 13 companies who participated in the report from 2018-2021, the number of companies offering trans-inclusive healthcare policies tripled. Paid time off for non-majority holidays among this cohort also doubled, and almost all now offer more religious accommodations for employees. 

Companies who establish goals and dedicate resources to address gaps related to Vibrant Index performance are more likely to achieve greater success year over year,” says Vibrant Pittsburgh CEO Sabrina Saunders Mosby. “[Consistent participation] allows companies to monitor progress measures annually, compare year-over-year data and adjust goals in real time.”

As always, the report identifies its “Vibrant Champions” — organizations that score above 95% on the index’s diagnostic measure — and 11 organizations make up the list this year. UPMC, the Pittsburgh Promise and PNC made the list for a second straight year.

Photo by Emmai Alaquiva courtesy of Vibrant Pittsburgh.

Saunders Mosby tells NEXTpittsburgh that the ease in accommodating a range of participants can be attributed to the fact that Vibrant doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to goal-setting.

“Sometimes small to midsize companies get intimidated by the large-scale initiatives they see executed by major corporations,” she says. “At the core, we are interested in examining whether companies did better than they did in the past.”

The biggest challenge, Saunders Mosby says, is that Vibrant Pittsburgh wants participants to take what they learn and actually apply it. The organization makes recommendations in its report for every company to take into consideration. 

“It’s not enough to just build the DEI infrastructure, it must be executed and maintained,” she says. 

Brenden Rearick is a journalist who covers a variety of topics from finance to the arts and everything in between. When he’s not writing, you can find him on the tennis court or at one of Lawrenceville’s many coffee shops.