Last week, the National Urban League delivered senior-level resumes of qualified, African-American candidates to senators who represent states with a high percentage of minority residents. The hope is that this will encourage senators to consider a diverse pool of candidates when hiring for positions like chief of staff, legislative director, and communications director.
Diversity Benefits Everyone
The National Urban League has dedicated more than 100 years to improving the standard of living in historically under-served urban communities. The organization works toward economic empowerment for all through public policy research and advocacy. Now, they’re targeting representation at senior staff levels in the Senate, in the hopes that increasing diversity there will have a positive effect on policy.
The current diversity picture is pretty bleak for these senior-level positions. There is just one African-American chief of staff and around two dozen staffers of color in other top-level positions. In a letter delivered along with the resumes, Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, said:
At the core of economic civil rights is the idea that all people should have access to jobs for which they are qualified. Despite the progress this country has made related to corporate diversity and inclusion, our Congress, specifically the U.S. Senate, has failed to move the needle when it comes to diversity and inclusion. This is deeply concerning and an embarrassment to our country. While policy decisions affecting all Americans are debated in the halls of Congress, persons of color are largely absent in top-level staff positions. Thus, on issues like education, the economy, health care, and decisions of war and peace, Members of Congress are legislating without the perspective of black and brown staff.
Diversity isn’t just the right thing to do here, it’s ultimately what’s best for everyone. Research has proven that diverse groups are better innovators and problem-solvers than groups that are homogeneous. Representation matters, and improvements in this area benefit everyone.
Solutions for Achieving a More Diverse Senate
Last month, the National Urban League Washington Bureau hosted a panel on diversity at the U.S. Senate. They discussed the importance of diversity in senior staff positions, and laid out ways in which offices can work toward achieving their goal of full representation (staff members closely paralleling the populations of a given state). They laid out a few solutions during this discussion:
- Congress should enact legislation or rules that subject them to employment laws that require reporting of employment demographics.
- Congress should publish vacancies for senior staff positions rather than filling them behind closed doors.
- A fair interview process should be established to fill vacancies — something like the NFL’s Rooney Rule.
Other Groups Working on the Issue
The National Urban League isn’t the only group concerned about the lack of Senate staff diversity. A coalition of civil rights groups met with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Democrat from New York, last month to discuss diversity. Also, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank that focuses on public policy issues of particular concern to African-Americans, continues to keep close tabs on progress. These groups, and others, will continue to advocate for advancement of these important goals.
“The handful of resumes that we sent to two dozen offices today are just a drop in the bucket of a deep wide talent pool capable of serving in senior Senate positions,” Don Cravins, Jr., Senior Vice President for Policy at the National Urban League, and Executive Director of the Washington Bureau, said in a press release. “Our goal is to continue to beat the drum on this disparity, not to shame anyone, but to rightly hold the Senate to the same level of accountability that we do private organizations and other branches of government. We want to serve as a resource in identifying black and brown candidates. I truly hope that Members will take us up on our offer.”
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