Black caucus pressures DC trade groups on diversity

Black caucus pressures DC trade groups on diversity
© Greg Nash
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is pressuring powerful K Street groups in Washington to diversify their workforces.
 
In a letter to industry leaders sent Tuesday, the CBC wrote companies are not doing an adequate job of hiring minorities. They say there should be more African-Americans serving as high-level executives, lobbyists and members of corporate boards.
 
The letter, sent to four prominent trade associations, also requests meetings in order to discuss the issue. 
 
A lack of diversity, the lawmakers stress, could damage lobbying efforts with their offices.
 
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“It is clear corporate America has a long way to go on this front and you will be asked by members of the CBC for data on improvements in this area if you come to do business with our offices,” it reads.
 
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) is the chairman of the CBC, which consists of 49 House members.
 
The letter was sent to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the Investment Company Institute (ICI) and the Organization for International Investment.
 
Those groups were selected “because they allow for a broad reach to a high number of firms,” a CBC spokeswoman told The Hill.
 
Both the ICI and the Business Roundtable have responded to the letter, the spokeswoman said, adding that the ICI is working to schedule a meeting.
 
“We look forward to a constructive discussion on this and other issues with members of the CBC in the near future,” a spokesman for the ICI said in an email to The Hill.
 
Maria Ghazal, the general counsel for the Business Roundtable, sent The Hill a statement that addressed many of the concerns listed in the letter.
 
"Business Roundtable believes diverse backgrounds and experiences among management ranks and on corporate boards can drive more growth, strengthen board performance and promote the creation of long-term shareholder value," she said. The group "agrees more can and should be done to bring more women and minorities into corporate America and we look forward to working with the Congressional Black Caucus and the business community on this and other issues of mutual interest.”
 
The Organization for International Investment also has plans to reach out to the group of lawmakers in the next week.
 
“The Organization for International Investment represents employers from all over the world that have invested in the U.S. economy and we appreciate the Congressional Black Caucus for raising the importance of diversity in America’s corporate culture.  Along with others in the broader U.S. business community, we look forward to engaging with the CBC on this important topic," a spokesman for the group said.
 
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the organization "strongly supports diversity in the workplace, which we believe is essential for a successful business."
 
"We look forward to working with the CBC and others to ensure the business community leads this effort and benefits from a diverse workforce at every level," she said in an emailed statement.
 
The letter hits on data points indicating that the proportion of minorities in the business world does not reflect the general population: There are only four companies in the S&P 500 with black chief executives, the lawmakers noted in one example.
 
“Too many Fortune 500 companies lack any African Americans on their boards or in their C-suites, [and] the government affairs shops and trade associations of many companies continue to shed African American representatives,” the lawmakers wrote.
 
The caucus also alleges that K Street has been shifting away from hiring black lobbyists following President Trump’s election.
 
“It appears as if corporate America has decided that the previous diverse administration needed diverse advocates to speak to, but in light of far less diverse personnel, the motivation to diversify seems to have eroded,” the CBC wrote.
 
“It is important to have a diverse advocacy corps in order to add perspective to the various policy debates that are underway in the Capitol.”
 
The letter is signed by all members of the CBC except for Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and the CBC’s single Republican member, Rep. Mia Love of Arizona.
 
A spokesman for Love said that she simply missed the deadline for signing the letter.
 
“Rep. Love is supportive and would have signed onto the letter. We missed the deadline last week as the Congresswoman was working in the district,” said Richard Piatt in an email.
 
Waters’s office did not respond to an email from The Hill about why the congresswoman did not sign.
 
Diversity has long been absent on Capitol Hill, which often carries over onto K Street, as a large portion of former aides eventually leave to become lobbyists.
 
Last year, the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus (SBLSC) conducted a “census” of African-American staffers in the Senate, Roll Call reported. The tally found that, out of about 3,500 Senate aides on Capitol Hill, only 5 percent were black.
 
“In our census overall, we found no significant gains in the number of black staffers and overwhelming disapproval or indifference in the current state of diversity in hiring and inclusiveness in office environments,” Don Bell, president of the SBLSC, wrote in a letter to lawmakers at the time.
 
In 2015, a study from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies measured the racial makeup of 336 Senate higher-ups, such as chiefs of staff, legislative directors, communications directors and committee staff directors.
 
Only three were African-American. A dozen were Asian-American, two were Native American and seven were Latino, the report says.
 
The American population is 13 percent black, 6 percent Asian and 18 percent Latino, according to the most recent U.S. census.
 
“We need to see a true commitment to making the leadership of America’s most successful firms look more like America,” the CBC letter reads. “Do better.”