The demographics of Fargo- Moorhead are changing before our eyes. While U.S. Census data still states that the population of Fargo is predominantly white (86.2 percent), according to demographic information from Fargo Public Schools, 28 percent of the students there are nonwhite. In fact, from 2011 to 2015, Moorhead Public Schools increased from 19 percent to 25 percent of its student population being a person of color.
This change can already be seen in the workplace as more people from across the world come to Fargo-Moorhead to work. To celebrate this growing diversity, the FMWF Chamber of Commerce recently launched a new program called Professionals of Color. We talked to four of their members to see why this is a needed addition to the business community.
Title: Marketing Technology Specialist
Company: Choice Bank
Role with Professionals of Color: Member of the Steering Committee
This is one of the first groups of its kind in the area. Why do you feel this program is needed?
Professionals of Color will provide a few valuable resources to the region. This group will be a way for professionals to connect with each other to develop and flourish as the business community grows and prospers. Networking with other professionals of color will help to create a community and support system that is currently absent for many individuals throughout the region. Many people don’t know where to turn for support and development. The Professionals of Color will provide business development and educational opportunities that members can use to continue their personal growth. And we will offer service opportunities for members to give back to the community. The region is becoming more and more diverse. This group will provide a way for businesses and professionals to form a community and understand how nurturing diversity is important for everyone.
What feedback did you receive after the initial launch meeting?
There was a lot of positive energy in the room during the launch event at the Plains Art Museum in February. You could really feel the support for the program. For one thing, having a charismatic speaker like Mayor Judd really brought a feeling of excitement to the event. I saw a lot of support from people who were not able to attend the event as well. It feels like we have a lot of momentum building.
As the demographics of Fargo- Moorhead change, why do you think this organization is good for the business community?
I think Fargo-Moorhead is a lot more diverse than people imagine it is. If you asked what percent of Fargo-Moorhead is white, I think most people would say something like 95 percent. And honestly, if I didn’t think about it too hard, I probably would have guessed a similar number as well. We have this idea of what race represents the FM area. But that is no longer true.
At a meeting the other day, someone mentioned that 27 percent of Fargo school kids are of color. I immediately wrote that down because I was shocked by it. Think about that. About one out of every four kids is not white. I grew up in Fargo, and when I was in school, it wasn’t like that. We are becoming more diverse. And that means our customers are becoming more diverse. Understanding your customers is essential for a business. Professionals of Color can connect businesses to a growing, diverse workforce. Hiring and interacting with people who represent and understand some of the fastest growing demographics in our area can be incredibly valuable. Another bene t to businesses is that diversity of race also provides a diversity of thought and culture.
Many studies show that diverse teams perform better and provide greater innovation and creativity. A diverse team is a high performing team. It’s just good business.
What do you hope will come as a result of the group?
I hear stories from people who do not feel like they have a place in our community. They haven’t found their support network yet. I really hope we can provide that network for them to have a sense of belonging and purpose. The more people feel connected to the community, the more they will put into improving it. It will hopefully create a positive feedback loop. And I hope we can help businesses connect with professionals of color to help build those high performing, diverse teams.
How can businesses get involved and support the mission of Professionals of Color?
Businesses that already hire diversely can encourage their own professionals to join the Professionals of Color. And for that matter, white is a color too. You don’t have to have darker skin to join Professionals of Color. Businesses and business members can be advocates for why diversity in the workplace is important and why it’s helped them. Companies that currently have a workforce that might underrepresent the growing diversity in our region, think about your own customers and how they are changing. Think about what a diversity of thought and culture can bring to your organizations.
Are there any businesses, community leaders or organizations in town that you admire?
Microsoft. In fact, Professionals of Color was really born from what is happening on the Microsoft campus with Blacks at Microsoft. Not only does Microsoft have a diverse workforce but they have communities within their workforce to support each other.