WED AM News: Consultant urges company leaders to take diversity, equity and inclusion efforts beyond recruiting; DATCP report details conservation efforts

— A business consultant is urging company leaders to approach diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives with a systematic approach that goes beyond recruiting. 

“That is probably the most common sticking point that I see organizations fall into,” Deborah Biddle said yesterday during a webinar hosted by American Family Insurance’s Dreambank program in Madison. “They think that having a diversity initiative means I should hire more people of color. If that’s the only thing you’re doing, then I think that you’re missing the boat almost completely.” 

Biddle is a certified diversity professional and coach with The People Company Consulting Group. In her presentation yesterday, she highlighted a number of common pitfalls that businesses encounter when trying to advance their DEI efforts. 

She also pointed to often-cited research from McKinsey & Company showing businesses with greater levels of diversity at the executive level tend to perform better. Biddle said the top quartile of companies for ethnic and cultural diversity outperform those in the bottom quartile by 36 percent based on profitability metrics. 

“That is a huge difference, and this research was done with over 1,000 companies and I believe 36 different countries of all different sizes,” she said. 

But she explained many businesses pursuing DEI goals stumble when they fail to gauge their own readiness, don’t get their leadership fully on board, or view such initiatives as a simple checklist to be completed. 

“I’d like it if it were that way but every organization is different, every organization’s priorities are different,” she said. “It’s not like rolling out a system implementation where you just follow the instructions … with DEI, we’re talking about unpacking people’s lived experience from the time they were born until today.” 

She cautioned against putting the burden of such efforts exclusively on women, people of color and other minorities, noting everyone in the organization needs to be working together to advance DEI measures. 

And Biddle underlined the importance of establishing “evidence-based targets” and accountability for reaching them, rather than simply discussing aspirational goals with no framework. 

“If you have laid the groundwork but maybe you’re moving too fast, then you have to slow down and go at the pace that your organization can be successful,” she said. “And that doesn’t mean you don’t push people a little bit. But you can’t run faster than your organization is willing to go.” 

— Dozens of Wisconsin counties this year are conducting groundwater testing, lake and stream monitoring, watershed projects and other conservation efforts. 

That’s according to DATCP’s 2021 Wisconsin Report on Soil and Water Conservation, which includes details on planned conservation efforts being undertaken this year. 

It shows 23 counties are monitoring lakes and streams, while 26 are monitoring or testing groundwater for contaminants, 27 are installing wetland restoration projects, and all but four counties are involved in various watershed projects. 

Based on data from 2021, the main focus of the report, the state funneled about $80 million in state, federal and other funds to conservation efforts last year. In the agriculture sector, that includes things like cover crops, managed grazing, farmland preservation efforts and other farmer-led initiatives. 

According to the report, counties reported more than 7,200 nutrient management plans covering over 3.23 million acres. Report authors wrote these plans help to “ensure that nutrients go into farmers’ crops instead of local soil and water sources.” 

DATCP’s report also highlights a number of local community efforts supported by counties and environmental groups across the state. These include efforts to combat shoreline erosion by planting more native plants, getting students involved with conservation, and stewardship awards recognizing residents for related efforts. 

See the agency’s elease: 

See the full report: 

— The latest USDA crop progress report shows harvesting of potatoes and winter wheat is lagging behind the five-year average while the oats harvest is slightly ahead. 

According to the report from the agency’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, 82 percent of oats for grain had been harvested as of Sunday, which is one day behind last year but two days ahead of the average. 

Meanwhile, the potato harvest was at 22 percent, which is nine days behind last year and three days behind the average. And winter wheat was 96 percent harvested — 12 days behind last year and six days behind the average. 

See the report: 

— Gov. Tony Evers is doubling the funding for a program providing mental health support to K-12 schools in the state. 

Evers yesterday announced he’s putting $90 million in federal COVID-19 funds into K-12 education, including $15 million in additional funds for the “Get Kids Ahead” initiative. That brings the total funding for this program to $30 million, according to a release from the guv’s office. 

Every Wisconsin school district can opt into the program, which provides funding for direct mental health services, hiring and supporting mental health professionals, related training and more. Districts that participate get at least $20,000, with funding above that level distributed on a per-pupil basis, the release shows. 

This additional funding comes amid increased mental health stresses for children in Wisconsin due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to findings from the state Office of Children’s Mental Health. 

The dollars announced yesterday come from the state’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation. Funds will be distributed to school districts in the coming weeks, per the release. 

See how much funding participating districts are getting here: 

See more details in the release: 

— About 2,300 monkeypox vaccine doses have been administered so far in Wisconsin, according to figures provided by the state Department of Health Services. 

In an email, DHS spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt said about 40 percent of the vaccine vials the state has received have been administered. A total of 3,854 vials of monkeypox vaccine have been made available to Wisconsin, she said; another 1,760 have been allocated to the state but are not yet available for ordering from the federal government. 

The state is using a “hub and spoke” model for distributing monkeypox vaccines to communities, with four hub locations located in Eau Claire, Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee and 50 “spokes” coordinating local distribution. 

“DHS is working with vaccinating partners to identify additional sites,” Goodsitt said. “If someone meets the current eligibility requirements for vaccination and are unable to make an appointment at one of these locations on our website, they can contact their local or tribal health department for assistance connecting with a vaccinator.” 

As of Monday, 57 cases of monkeypox had been confirmed in Wisconsin, the DHS site shows.

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