Report | Re-Imagining a Bay Area Workforce System Grounded in Racial and Gender Equity

Re-imagining a Bay Area Workforce System Grounded in Racial and Gender Equity, a report released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, examines how women and people of color have made untold contributions across industries, despite being denied basic rights and fair wages due to racism, sexism, and xenophobia baked into our workforce policies and practices. These injustices are amplified by the COVID-19 crisis, and the report shows why we will need a workforce system designed specifically to meet the needs of marginalized groups in order to have a just and inclusive recovery.

Supported by ReWork the Bay, a collaborative of funders, advocates, workers, and employers housed at The San Francisco Foundation, the report focuses on a growing low-wage workforce, disproportionately comprised of women and people of color, forced by our policy decisions to live on the edge long before COVID-19.

As detailed in the report, the Bay Area’s most common profession, personal care or caregiving, is 80 percent female, largely done by women of color, and pays a median hourly rate of $11.68 — well below San Francisco’s minimum wage.

The region’s top five most common jobs, including retail and food prep, are heavily filled by women and people of color; drastically impacted by the pandemic through high risk of exposure, mass closures, or little or no benefits; and pay a median wage about $90,000 less than other common occupations more frequently taken by white men. The very jobs powering the region barely provide millions of workers enough to keep the lights on and put food on the table, much less weather a health emergency, lay off, or recession.

As a result, nearly 1 in 3 Bay Area households are unable to afford basic needs like childcare, transportation, and housing – despite many struggling households working multiple jobs in sectors considered high-demand and essential.

Drawing on interviews with workforce leaders, practitioners, and marginalized working people, the report examines racial and gender bias and inequities among Bay Area workforce institutions by:

  • Analyzing the impact of key federal, state, and local policies and practices on working people of color and women in the Bay Area;
  • Uncovering dominant narratives in the public workforce system in the Bay Area that drive investments, policies and practice, and examining the extent to which workforce organizations reinforce harmful narratives about people of color, women and work; and
  • Incorporating the voices of systems leaders, practitioners, and working people to uncover both the true barriers to work and promising approaches to addressing racial inequities.

Revealing a lack of holistic and innovative initiatives working to address pervasive racial and gender biases among Bay Area workforce systems, the report highlights key findings from stakeholder interviews and shares recommendations for systems reform.

Click here to read and download the full report (PDF).

Click here to read and download a landscape of the Bay Area’s workforce development system (PDF).


BIG Initiative | Past Initiative

The Insight Center for Community Economic Development is launching an important new initiative intended to help organizations BuyInvest and Hire, and Give locally within Alameda and Contra Costa counties, which together anchor Northern California’s East Bay economy. The campaign is intended to harness and align local reinvestment, new employment opportunities, and under-tapped community capital with an eye to bolstering local small business expansion, job quality, and employment equity.

In partnership with Oakland-based Urban Strategies Council and the Sustainable Business Alliance, and with generous planning support from the New York-based Surdna Foundation, the Insight Center is compiling and analyzing field research, engaging stakeholders, and assessing public opinion on allied issues and opportunities. If successful, this work will establish a framework and action plan for a multi-year BIG campaign in Alameda and Contra Costa during 2016-2018.

Join the BIG Initiative!

HealthWorks East Bay | Past Initiative

Connecting Men of Color to Careers in Healthcare

HealthWorks East Bay: Connecting Men of Color to Careers in Healthcare (HealthWorks) seeks to increase employers’ competitive edge in California’s East Bay while reducing economic disparities affecting young and working age men of color, ultimately creating vibrant, economically healthy communities with opportunities for all. The project aligns with work at the national level by President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to reduce persistent inequalities affecting boys and men of color.

Men of color face deep and long-standing disparities in employment. These disparities harm their economic security, their communities’ economic health, and the businesses that could benefit by employing them. Their under-representation in the workforce makes employers less successful in broadening their customer base and meeting its needs effectively. As a result, these disparities undermine the East Bay’s equity and economic competitiveness.

With funding from The California Endowment, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development is leading an initiative to connect young and working age men of color in the East Oakland and Richmond communities of California with careers in the healthcare and allied sectors.

Why Increase Employment of Men of Color in Healthcare?

An Opportunity for Young and Working Age Men of Color

  • Young and working age men of color experience much higher unemployment rates than other populations.
  • They are also significantly underrepresented in the healthcare sector.
  • The contribution of young and working age men of color to the healthcare workforce can be greatly expanded by combining skill-development with the support and involvement of visionary employers.

An Opportunity for Healthcare Employers

  • In an increasingly diverse East Bay, employers need an equally diverse workforce to effectively serve their customers and expand their businesses.
  • As the worker population ages and companies anticipate skill shortages, a robust pipeline of young workers is vital to a company’s bottom line.
  • Cultivating a pipeline of young workers of color will provide employers greater choice in hiring the quality candidates they need.

An Opportunity for the East Bay

  • Community economic vitality depends on equitable and gainful employment of all its members.
  • Economic vitality is proven to improve health and security outcomes.
  • Young and working age men of color represent an underutilized talent pool that, if developed and employed, can contribute significantly to the East Bay economy and tax base.

How We Can Increase Employment of Men of Color in Healthcare

Effective models and best practices exist to accomplish this work. Sector partnerships, for example, pair a thorough knowledge of employers’ needs in an industry sector such as health care with a deep understanding of the needs of job seekers and workers, and meet both sets of needs. They are a proven approach. The East Bay has many effective examples.

Public and private sector policy changes can also have a major impact. For instance, Johns Hopkins Health System changed its employment practices to increase hiring of individuals with criminal records and has had a decade of success. In the East Bay, the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency has established contractual provisions that emergency medical service providers employ young men of color who graduate from a training program developed specifically for that purpose.

Mayors’ Letter to Employers

In a joint letter to employers, The Mayor of Oakland, the Mayor of Richmond, and the Insight Center’s CEO introduced HealthWorks to East Bay organizations in the health care and related sectors and requested their participation in efforts to increase employment in healthcare for boys and men of color.

Advisory Committee Members

HealthWorks relies upon the multiple stakeholders on the project’s Advisory Committee to inform and guide our efforts and to explore opportunities to align strategies and resources. Responsibilities of Advisory Committee members include supporting the initiative and providing informed feedback reflecting the perspectives of healthcare employers, organizations preparing boys and men of color for healthcare careers, and boys and men of color themselves.


Insight Center staff presented a Review of Process and Discovery Work to Date at the HealthWorks Advisory Committee’s June 3, 2016 meeting. Staff also presented information about the initiative at the Diversity in Health Training Institute Policy Forum and at the East Bay Healthcare Workforce Partnership Executive Roundtable.

National Network of Sector Partners (NNSP) | Past Initiative


What is the National Network of Sector Partners?

The National Network of Sector Partners (NNSP) is the national association for sector partnerships and their supporters. NNSP advocates for sector partnerships and works with them to:

  • Increase economic security, focusing on low-income individuals, their families, and their communities;
  • Meet the workforce-related needs of industry sectors that are important to regional labor markets;
  • Strengthen employment equity; and
  • Improve regional economic vitality.

Created as an initiative of the Insight Center in 1999, NNSP has hundreds of members nationwide and a broader network of over 3,500 sector partnership leaders, policy makers, researchers, business and labor leaders, funders, and other supporters. NNSP works with our national advisory committee, members, and broader network and draws upon their experience to set and achieve our priorities.

Why This Matters

Sector partnerships are regional, industry-focused approaches to workforce and economic development that are proven to help job-seekers and workers obtain good jobs and employers improve their bottom line. They address problems in regional labor markets that leave industries lacking employees with the right skills and workers lacking the skills they need for better jobs. In doing so, they also work at a systems level to build the workforce pipeline, overcome disparities in employment that limit both economic security and productivity, and contribute to regional economic vitality.

What We Do

NNSP supports sector partnerships by:

  • Advancing public policy and funding to support sector partnerships
  • Guiding development of strategic plans and action plans
  • Delivering training, technical assistance, and tools, in person, virtually, and via
  • Pursuing strategies to reduce employment disparities that affect people of color, women, and others
  • Informing the field about the latest research, success stories, and industry-specific information
  • Conducting research using rigorous methodologies
  • Providing NNSP’s web-site, webinars, newsletters, videos, LinkedIn group, and social media – go-to resources for sector partnerships, policy makers, and others.

NNSP’s clients include community colleges and community college systems, labor-management partnerships, national federations of community-based organizations, regional workforce funder collaboratives, states agencies and state associations and workforce boards and regional employment and training offices. To explore whether we can help meet your needs regarding sector partnerships or strategies that support them, or to find out more, email

Our Successes

With over 15 years’ experience promoting and supporting sector approaches, NNSP has helped:

  • Bring about policy and funding support for sector partnerships in WIOA and states across the U.S.
  • Build the capacity to design, operate, sustain, and scale up sector partnerships of hundreds of workforce boards, community colleges, community-based organizations, labor-management partnerships, industry associations, and economic development organizations across the country
  • Develop and disseminate resources to support sector partnerships on topics such as career pathways, apprenticeships, strong business involvement, and employment equity

Membership in NNSP

NNSP membership provides what you need on sector partnerships and strategies to support them: advocacy on policy and funding, interaction with highly effective sector partnerships, key information resources, and other assistance.

Visit to learn more.