Structural racism and implicit bias is impacting the region’s education and workforce outcomes in 2020.
The FutureMakers Coalitions’ (FMC) outcomes have demonstrated significant achievement gaps for Black and Latinix students of all ages.
In order to reduce these gaps, earlier this year, the Equity Action Team of the Coalition launched daylong conversations about how structural racism and implicit bias is impacting the region’s education and workforce outcomes.
Ten volunteers from the 18-member FMC Equity Action Team facilitated the conversations either in full-day formats or two-hour virtual intro formats with 775 Southwest Floridians since February 2020 and during COVID – adapted from in-person to virtual.
“Our format was modeled after conversations developed by our partners in Broward County from the Broward Children’s Services Council who presented to the Coalition at our annual Breakfast of Champions in Sept 2019,” said Tessa LeSage, FutureMakers Coalition director, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, which serves as the backbone organization for the FutureMakers Coalition. “In order to meet our goals, we believe we must change the policies, practices, and beliefs that are resulting in inequitable outcomes.”
The FutureMakers Coalitions goal is to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce by increasing the percentage of working age (25-64 year old) adults that hold the post-high school credentials to 55 percent by 2025
The courageous conversations are designed to support the development of equity imperatives among the FutureMakers partner organizations in hopes of establishing the foundational knowledge needed to create the anti-racist polices, practices, and beliefs needed to improve outcomes for all and reach the goal of 55 percent.
“The Minnesota Twins are committed to being a community leader in the areas of diversity and inclusion,” said Mark Weber, manager, Florida Business Operations for the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club. “We were honored to participate in the FutureMakers initiative to educate individuals and businesses on this important topic.”
The Coalition plans to continue these introductory conversations with the five-county region.
The introduction to a conversation about structural racism and implicit bias can be held virtually and provides an overview of the history of racism, including local history, and concepts related to implicit bias.
“Now, more than ever, we need to have open discussions about structural racism and implicit bias,” said Indera Devi DeMine, an immigration attorney in Fort Myers. “The events that occurred in 2020, most notably, the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd, was a turning point for me as a business owner. I felt a need to listen, to become educated, to train my staff and to become actively anti-racist. The training that our office received from the FutureMakers Coalition has given us the tools and guidance to not only recognize our own biases, but to be advocates for change in our community.”
Implicit bias refers to attitudes or stereotypes that impact our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.
“The FutureMakers Coalition is committed to facilitating community conversations to shine a light on these topics to strengthen our community’s educational systems and workforce and to co-create a better future for Southwest Florida,” said Michele Hylton-Terry, executive director of the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency and a member of the FutureMakers Coalition’s Equity Action team.
The FutureMakers Coalition aims to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce by increasing the proportion of working age adults with college degrees, workforce certificates, industry certifications and other high-quality credentials to 55 percent. The Coalition has grown to over 300 FutureMakers representing business, education, government, nonprofits, philanthropy, residents, and students across Glades, Hendry, Collier, Lee, and Charlotte counties.
In January of 2020, Southwest Florida was designated a Talent Hub by Lumina Foundation in partnership with The Kresge Foundation and received a $125,000 grant to support local efforts to increase educational attainment.
The FutureMakers Coalition encourages businesses to join and invest in sustaining this community-changing initiative by visiting https://www.futuremakerscoalition.com or emailing Tessa LeSage at [email protected].