Report: Pittsburgh's creative class is hampered by a lack of diversity

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A new economy of innovators could make the Pittsburgh region a magnet for the creative class if stakeholders make diversity and inclusion a priority, according to a new report.

"Pittsburgh has almost all of the essential components to build a 21st century economy, but the one notable exception is its inclusiveness of people of color, of foreign-born descent and same-sex partnerships," reads a portion of the report's summary.

One of the researchers, Kevin Stolarick of the University of Toronto's Martin Prosperity Institute, called the issue of diversity and inclusion a "huge" factor in regional economic progress.

"The challenge with shifting from an industry-based economy to a more knowledge-based economy is you have to shift from being an economy that's very much about companies to one that's very much about people. You have to create an economy driven by people," Mr. Stolarick told the audience at a Creative Industries Summit hosted by Pittsburgh Technology Council at Carnegie Mellon University on Wednesday.

"Inclusion, Innovation and Integrative Design: Pittsburgh Creative Clusters," examined more than 170,000 workers in more than 11,000 businesses employing people in creative positions across seven counties. Regional statistics are stacked against 19 other regions with strong creative industries and geographic diversity.

Among the report's highlights:

• The regional creative cluster of 176,940 is expected to surpass 200,000 by 2020.

• Creative cluster workers earn more than $9.6 billion per year, 20 percent of the region's overall wages.

• The region ranked fifth among bench-marked cities for job growth between 2006 and 2011.

• Estimates for the region's future prosperity are higher than one-third of the nation's metro regions.

But there is room for improvement:

• The region ranked last in terms of the number of foreign-born residents, 18th for representation of the gay and lesbian community and 13th for the percentage of nonwhite residents

• Despite 18.8 percent wage growth from 2006 to 2011, the average creative cluster wage of $43,000 ranked 15th.

• The region's loss of talent from universities is comparable to average metro regions, but ranks 19th among bench-marked cities.

Commissioned by Pittsburgh Technology Council, CMU and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, with research by Mr. Stolarick and Lou Musante of Allison Park-based consulting firm Echo Strategies, the report breaks down statistics on jobs related to creative industry support, data sciences, design, entertainment, fine arts, media communications and software and hardware creation.

Allegheny, Washington, Fayette, Westmoreland, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver and Lawrence counties are all included as part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan core-based statistical area. Lawrence County statistics do not include the New Castle area.

Regardless of upward trends, regional progress will hit a ceiling without bringing underrepresented groups into the fold, Technology Council president Audrey Russo said.

"[Diversity] should be nonnegotiable," she said. "Everyone who has a business here should have forthright policies around family, workplace and health care coverage that demonstrate we will not tolerate any business, institution or organization that doesn't have the basic tenets of inclusion embedded in their policy."

Without those tenets in place, the region could fall behind the nation in both demographics and economics, said Thanassis Rikakis, Carnegie Mellon vice provost for design, arts and technology.

"Pittsburgh has the numbers within its demographic makeup, but we're not leveraging that makeup to prepare Pittsburgh for 2020. We have the opportunity to get people from diverse backgrounds into the creative industry; we're just not doing it," he said.

"This is not about being nice or tolerant or philanthropic, it's about being competitive in the future."

Deborah M. Todd: dtodd@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1652.


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