Dayton wants more diverse city workers, but mayor proud of effort

Dayton leaders say they want the city government’s workforce to reflect the diversity of the community. But that’s easier said than done.

More than 70 percent of workers employed by the city are white, and an even larger share of the workforce are men, according to city data obtained by this newspaper.

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In the city of Dayton, 40 percent of residents are black and more than half are women.

But the city’s racial diversity is actually pretty good considering Dayton no longer has a residency requirement for employees and its workforce comes from across the region, which is overwhelmingly white, said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

Some departments have struggled to achieve diversity goals, such as safety services. About 93 percent of the fire department is white men.

“I’m really proud of that 70-30 number because we are pulling from the entire region for our workforce,” Whaley said. “We really want to work on are the departments that don’t have diversity.”

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The city of Dayton employs 1,997 people, which includes part-time workers and supervisors.

Demographics vary by department.

But white men hold 1,146 jobs with the city (57 percent of the total positions), city data show. White women occupy 269 jobs (13.5 percent of the total).

The city’s workforce includes 519 employees who are black, 18 who are Hispanic or Latino, 17 who identify as two or more races, 17 who are Asian or Pacific Islander and 11 who are American Indian or Alaska native, according to city data.

The city’s newest hires are sticking to these trends. The city hired 190 new employees in 2017 across a wide a range of departments, according to city data. Almost seven in 10 last year were Caucasian, and three in four were male.

Some city departments are quite diverse.

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About 43 percent of public works employees and nearly 29 percent of water department workers are minorities. More than one-quarter of airport employees are people of color.

Dayton’s male-to-female employee ratio is pretty typical of most cities, because of the type of work government historically performs, like street paving and public utility operations, Whaley said.

Whaley said she always pushes for increasing women’s access to jobs. But, she said, she’s proud women hold executive positions with the city, including city manager, deputy city manager, law director and director of finance.

Challenges remain.

Dayton’s most recent police recruit class was the least diverse in in at least a decade. Nine in 10 sworn police officers are white and nearly as many are men.

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The fire department employs 29 women and 307 men. There are 22 male fire employees who are minorities. The other 285 are white.

But Dayton’s Civil Service Department says this year it will focus on improving diversity in the fire department.

One goal is for at least 25 percent of candidates for the upcoming EMT class to come from diverse backgrounds, officials said.

“It’s no secret that the city of Dayton’s safety forces have tried to improve diversity for a very long time,” said Jeff Lykins, the fire department’s deputy chief.

Lykins said his research indicate that as far back as 1965, Dayton struggled to have safety forces’ workers mirror the community they serve.

The biggest challenge is getting qualified candidates who are minorities to apply for open positions, he said, but the city has created a safety services diversity team to work on an prospective recruitment and selection practices to better achieve diversity goals.

“This isn’t just a city of Dayton problem,” he said. “Fire departments across America are finding it exceedingly difficult to diversify their forces.”

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