What Congress is doing to diversify its staff
Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), as chair of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, has been pushing his colleagues to adopt a series of recommendations to make the Capitol a more diverse and inclusive place to work.
Speaking at The Hill’s annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion event last month, Kilmer said Congress has taken some early steps in the right direction.
“Part of the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within the institution of Congress is that Congress and its staff should look like the American people,” Kilmer said. “It will do a better job of being responsive to constituents if it does.”
A report released by the committee in Sept. 2021 listed a litany of problem areas regarding staffing and management in House offices.
It said chiefs of staff often had little management experience, training of new staff was lacking, hiring processes were disorganized, pay stipends were insufficient, staff with disabilities faced access barriers, and opportunities for professional development were inadequate.
Kilmer said that of the 194 recommendations the committee has passed to make Congress more transparent, two thirds of them had been implemented, or are on their way to becoming reality.
One of these recommendations was installing a permanent office of Diversity and Inclusion within Congress, which he said was established in the last rules package.
“It means that you now have an office within Congress that goes to bed at night thinking about these issues every evening and wakes up every morning thinking about these issues,” Kilmer told The Hill’s contributing editor, Steve Clemons, and race and politics reporter Cheyanne Daniels.
Kilmer said Congress is also collecting DEI data, including implementing more surveys of its staff. And his committee recommended the establishment of a “one stop shop” for human resources for House members, which now exists.
“One of the challenges that we observed when we started off on this exercise was you know Congress is in many respects 435 independent contractors, all with their own HR function. And so everybody was kind of winging it,” he said.
The hub provides information on how to build a more diverse staff and the HR tools to make that happen.
“Our committee decided that we didn’t want to just make recommendations, we actually wanted to make change,” he said.