stituencies they serve, others privately use that same logic to discount
diversity if their state has a low percentage of people of color. That
logic, of course, is faulty, since even
senators from predominately white
states have committee assignments
that impact the entire country.
The redistricting that occurred after
the creation of the 1990 census led
to the election of 13 additional
black members of Congress. That
led to an increase in the number of
people of color who held senior
House staff positions.
“Historically, there is a bigger
pool of [black and Latino] qualified
candidates for mid- and senior-level
positions now than before 1990,”
Thornell says. But the overwhelming majority of those House staff
members has not been able to translate their experience into jobs for
Senators or on committees.
The Senate’s percentage of black
employees has remained stagnant
over the past 17 years. About 2. 3 percent of all Senate employees across
the country in 1989 were black,
according to the Congressional testimony of Jackie Parker, deputy legislative director and senior policy
adviser for Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
A sian American
10% 9. 7
U.S. Senat e
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, DiversityInc
178 | DiversityInc June 2006
That presently is approximately 2. 4
percent across the country.
Last summer, a group called the
Working Group of African
Americans in Government Relations
contacted Senator Democratic
Leader Harry Reid and urged him
to raise the issue of the lack of
diversity in the Senate. Reid is seen
by some in the group as a diversity
champion because he started an
internship program designed to get
more blacks into Senate jobs.
“We have sought to focus attention on the issue of increasing staff
diversity on the Hill not simply
because of fairness and inclusiveness, but because these are essential
ingredients to federal policy making,” the group wrote in a letter to
The letter suggested several solutions, including reaching out to the
group for qualified job candidates,
convening a luncheon to raise the
issue to senators, identifying a senator staffer to serve as point person
for diversity efforts, and forming
more internship programs.
Darrel Thompson, a senior adviser
to Reid, says the senator discussed the
diversity issue at a Senate leadership
meeting a week after receiving the letter. The senator also encouraged his
colleagues to model internship programs after the fellowship program he
started with Howard University.
Thompson is a black man. “We were
working with a number of folks to
plan a conference to deal with minority hiring,” Thompson says. “I can’t
speak for every office, but we are trying to do better, and in Sen. Reid’s
office, I think [people of color] are
about 20 percent of the staff.”
Howard Moon, a senior policy
adviser for House Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says many
Asian Americans only recently realized the importance of holding
Congressional staff positions. “In
some respects, I think Asian
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