Black Is Beautiful is a new series of interviews with local African American women who are interesting, intelligent, and immersed in their passion. To learn more about the series, go here.
In 2020, Chytania Brown became the first African American woman to be named President and Chief Executive Officer of Employment Milwaukee, Inc. Collectively, she has worked for more than 20 years in criminal justice, workforce development- work, community development, policy and advocacy.
Employ Milwaukee is the local workforce development board that serves Milwaukee County. Its vision is to develop workforce solutions for businesses and workers that promote regional economic growth and employment opportunities.
Brown is passionate about her work and recently sat down with OnMilwaukee to share her insight.
OnMilwaukee: You’ve lived in Milwaukee most of your life, right?
Chytania Brown: Yes, I was born in Milwaukee and graduated from what is now Bradley Tech. I went to the University of Mississippi for my undergraduate degree, then came back to Milwaukee to attend UWM and get a master’s degree in educational psychology. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. on advancing leadership through learning and service at Cardinal Stritch.
As President and CEO of Employment Milwaukee, what exactly do you do?
My main function is to monitor workplace initiatives. Basically, we work with people looking for work and companies that need employees. Our job is to understand the demand, then nurture and develop that talent to meet the needs of employers.
Has your work increased since the start of the pandemic?
Yes, he has been particularly busy since the pandemic. Lots of people change careers and lots of employers need employees. We learn to understand the new world of employment; how can we evolve, because it’s definitely not the same thing.
How does this job satisfy you?
I have been a service oriented person since I was a child. I always knew that whatever I did would be working with people to help them be their best selves. Before this job, I had no idea what workforce development was, but the more I learned about it, the more I realized I had found my niche. I have been in this field for over two decades now and love meeting the needs of employers and employees. I work with all types of people, from young people trying to figure it out, to people who are changing careers or have been laid off in their 40s.
How does your work move Milwaukee forward?
Jobs are the solution to all our problems. Everyone should be able to afford to eat, pay rent and get health care by working for a living wage. We cannot solve other problems without a job; it is central to the health and prosperity of our city.
How else are you involved in your community?
I sit on many boards including the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, Menomonee Valley Partners, I Have A Dream Milwaukee and more. I want to be part of so many conversations in Milwaukee. I do the best that I can.
Have you ever thought about moving from Milwaukee?
Yeah, but there’s something in the air that’s keeping me here. When I graduated from Ole Miss, I had planned to move to Texas with some of my sorority sisters, but my mom got sick and I came back here to take care of her. Once I was here I got stuck, and I mean it in a good way. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t come back to Milwaukee. I love my city. There is so much in Milwaukee that is overshadowed by negativity and I want to be part of the positive in any way I can.
I said one day I’d like to work in Washington, DC, so we’ll see. But I own a house in the city of Milwaukee now and I’m probably here to stay.
What is one thing you love about Milwaukee?
There is plenty to do here as Milwaukee is rich in culture and arts. Just go out and enjoy.
What is one thing you would like to see change in Milwaukee?
I believe in community. When I took over as president and CEO of this organization, I walked in the door saying we were going to not operate like an island and that we have to work in cohesion with many other organisations.
We are resource-rich in Milwaukee, but very disjointed in the work we do. We need to become One Milwaukee for a long term solution.
Our mayor cannot do it alone; our alders cannot do it alone. We need to take a collective stand as a community. We have to say we’re tired of the way things are, and then stick together to make it happen.