Blacks in Baltimore are largely excluded from professional and managerial jobs in the city's private sector because of the "closed nature of promotion and recruitment," according to a study conducted by a group of black business leaders.
In addition, Baltimore's track record in hiring and promoting black managers ranks near the bottom among five cities, including Atlanta, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Richmond. Only Richmond fares worse than Baltimore in its treatment of black professionals.
Those conclusions were drawn from a study conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies on behalf of the Investing in Baltimore Committee [IBC], a group of 17 of the city's prominent black business leaders.
The report, released yesterday, also was to be presented today at a meeting of black executives at the Omni International Hotel.
Funded jointly by the Morris Goldseker and Ford foundations, the report essentially challenges the Greater Baltimore Committee to push its members to increase the number of black managers in private sector jobs.
Among IBC's assertions is that the city's corporate community has not done enough to address the "disparity between the number of blacks employed in the private sector and those pursuing careers in the world of private enterprise."
"Of particular concern was the apparent absence of blacks in senior management of most Baltimore companies," the report states. "To our knowledge, very few of these corporations were doing anything to increase the number of black executives in a city with almost 60 percent black population and with growing black political leadership."
The report concludes that only 5 percent of the city's professionals and managers are black.
Overall, the report states, blacks in Baltimore are most likely to be managers in the finance, insurance, real estate and retail trade industries and are least likely to be managers in durable goods manufacturing and construction.
"None of the cities studied is doing a fabulous job, but Baltimore is doing a particularly poor job," said Daniel Henson, a developer with Struever Brothers, Eccles & Rouse and chairman of the IBC.
Henson said that the report confirms what black professionals have long felt about their status in Baltimore's private sector.
"There's a lonely feeling you get when you sit in a meeting room and you're the only African-American there," he said.
Henson said that two years ago, shortly after the IBC was formed, the group met with GBC members to discuss the shortage of blacks in management. He said GBC officials responded that while the issue was important, "it's not one of our top priorities."
The IBC then pursued the idea of a study to bring attention to the issue, Henson said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Kurt L.Schmoke took up the group's cause in May in a speech during an annual GBC gala and challenged the business community to improve its record with minority employees.
The speech broadsided GBC officials, who had hoped the occasion would focus strictly on the group's new thrust of establishing the city as an international headquarters for life sciences.
In his comments, Schmoke urged the GBC to make its vision "inclusive."
"Baltimore is now almost 60 percent African-American, with a large diversity of other minority groups," he said. "Our city cannot be the economic success story all of us want if the majority of our people are left behind."
Henson, a long-time friend and political ally of Schmoke's, said the mayor's remarks helped the IBC cause.
GBC President Robert Keller,who said he was briefed on the IBC report Wednesday, said the data provides a "base line" upon which the GBC can explore a response to the problem and make "systemic change."
"There's nothing more important than this task," Keller said. "The numbers they put forth are not surprising, but they are horrific."
In addition to citing promotion and recruitment problems, the report says some business leaders interviewed for the project felt the city's poor performance was due to a limited pool of highly educated and skilled minority applicants for entry-level and middle-management positions.
The report attributes the limited pool to the city's poor public school system and the fact that many "better qualified" blacks gravitate toward metropolitan areas that offer higher salaries and more Fortune 500 companies.