As an economic development nonprofit, Vibrant Pittsburgh’s official mission is to build a thriving and inclusive Pittsburgh region by attracting, retaining, and elevating a diversity of talent. The organization partners with hundreds of local employers who are committed to this mission, as well as provides educational resources, holds events such as job fairs, and implements a variety of initiatives to further its goals.
North Hills’ resident and native Pittsburgher Sabrina Saunders Mosby came on board in November of 2019 as its executive director and explained how the nonprofit tirelessly works to help local employers achieve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
North Hills Monthly (NHM): Why is it so important to local companies to attract and retain diverse talent?
Sabrina Saunders Mosby (Mosby): One thing we know is that our country is becoming and more and diverse, and that there is a talent gap in our region. Because of that, we know that the talent we seek to fill these jobs will in fact have to be diverse, because that is what the country is. That is the goal we are racing toward: getting people to move and to stay in Pittsburgh so we don’t lose companies.
NHM: What is the history of the organization?
Mosby: In 2011, corporate and community leaders came together to deal with the stark realization that the region would not be able to sustain opportunities for economic growth unless it saw a dramatic increase in the diversity of its population. Some other organizations focused on population growth and diversity, but not specifically on diversity, equity and inclusion and building a diverse population.
At the time, Vibrant Pittsburgh was the Regional Opportunity Center; it was a different organization under a different name. It was the welcoming center for immigrants, and it worked to provide them with access to opportunities to make their experiences more palatable. In 2011, Vibrant Pittsburgh was essentially born to focus on a broad concept of equity and diversity, not solely focused on the immigrant community but all facets of diversity. It was a collaborative merger—we are technically named the Regional Opportunity Center doing business as Vibrant Pittsburgh.
NHM: How does your nonprofit operate in practice?
Mosby: Vibrant Pittsburgh is an inclusion partner. We share job opportunities here in Pittsburgh with passive job seekers who are diverse, through jobs made available by our member companies. I don’t go out and recruit talent to Pittsburgh; the companies do that. My job is to help build policies and practices and to support our companies in doing that so they can become more inclusive. It’s about changing the system, so opportunities are not missed.
We are also a convener; we pull together a number of councils and forums annually. Four times a year, we host the EBRG Council (Employee Business Research Group). Many companies have resource groups that specifically focus on unique needs and priorities of different identity populations in companies so they have a sounding board and research to tap into.
We also convene the DNI forum, a collaborative diversity of collective practitioners from across the industry and sector to do something similar: to share good practices and to find opportunities for synergy and partnership in the region.
We also host a next generation council, a convening of ‘NextGen’ leaders who are appointed by our member companies to serve as young leaders to help envision what our unique needs are, and what we can do collectively to attract and retain talent.
We also provide learning and development opportunities around diversity and inclusion. Based on where companies are in their DEI journey, we have customized trainings they can develop that they can participate in individually, as well as monthly lunch-and-learns, and then finally we have something we launched during the pandemic: we created a ‘resilience through equity’ webinar series, bringing a variety of topics relevant to equity and inclusion.
NHM: About how many employers work with you?
Mosby: Vibrant Pittsburgh is a membership organization; we have close to 130 local employers that are members, and it is growing every single day. Our membership in my first year as CEO doubled, and we continue to grow.
NHM: Can you share any statistics about your success?
Mosby: We regularly engage about 2,500 diverse passive job seekers. Over 2,300 newcomers that we’ve worked with have settled into the region through our programming. We also work with about 500 affinity groups that have more than 50,000 constituents (EBRGs, cultural organizations, Hispanic chambers, etc.) We also offer grants that we provide directly to the diverse community-serving organizations. We have awarded $250,000 in mini-grants to 80 diverse organizations since our founding.
NHM: Why are companies committing to hiring a more diverse workforce?
Mosby: There are a number of motivating factors. When we diversify the workforce, it is richer and allows for increased productivity and more uniqueness and variety of thought. Diversity without inclusion and equity does the opposite: you don’t see retention or elevation. The companies we are engaging with are starting to understand that.
While companies are acknowledging that diversity is important and the right thing to do, what they are also realizing is that the environment in which an employee works, where he or she calls home, is also vitally important. It’s not just a numbers game from a talent perspective; there are more stages to having a commitment to diversity than just recruiting. Everyone is on a different stage in their diversity journey; I see a shift in the levels of commitment. We’re seeing people at major companies building diversity into their strategies. I believe that the true commitment we need to see and where success really lies with DEI is part of the way we do business.
NHM: What is the primary message you’d like to get across about Vibrant Pittsburgh?
Mosby: DEI is an individual journey as much as it is a collective one. If you’re not an employer, what does this have to do with you? It’s about how we individually plug in and recognize and diversify a community. We all have an individual responsibility and an opportunity to welcome someone into the spaces we occupy, and it does make a difference. If we all individually take up that charge, Pittsburgh will become more welcoming and more diverse for everyone.
NHM: How optimistic are you about the future of Pittsburgh when it comes to establishing and retaining a diverse workforce?
Mosby: My life’s work is investing in community and elevating people—I wouldn’t be able to do this work if I didn’t believe we had the right opportunity to make a shift. I am optimistic that those in decision-making roles have the power and the privilege to continue to do this work and help us move forward. The fact that our country and our world is becoming more and more diverse is the largest inspiration and motivator we need. The only way to tell that story is to attract diversity and to be a region of choice for that talent to grow. I’m optimistic that we will get there.