If you peered behind the counter of Muhammad Irfan’s small convenience store about 10 years ago, you would have seen him or one of his employees from the Allentown neighborhood selling sodas and cigarettes to customers.
But today, it’s Irfan and his two brothers—originally from Pakistan—who stock the shelves with snacks and stand at the cash registers. Why the change?
“Because family is more close to me and they’re more trustworthy,” Irfan explained. “Plus this is a family business and the family has an interest in it. We have family members and they need jobs, so we give them jobs.”
While people from South Asian countries are in the minority in Pittsburgh, Irfan’s decision to hire his family members rather than more people from the neighborhood is a practice that has made workplaces here less diverse than those in other cities.
But employers hiring people in their own circles is just one piece of a larger reality that Pittsburgh’s workplaces are simply not diverse. In a report released earlier this year, the nonprofit Vibrant Pittsburgh found that minorities here and across Southwestern Pennsylvania hold fewer jobs and lower paying jobs than White people.