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Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs

Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs
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Congressional associations that represent Hill staffers of color have sent a letter to House and Senate leadership, calling for lawmakers in both chambers to increase the diversity of their staffs in the new session of Congress that starts in January.

The letter was spearheaded by the Tri-Caucus Staff Associations — organizations that offer professional support for Black, Hispanic and Asian American staffers — but was signed by more than a dozen other staff groups.

“The 117th Congress promises to be one of the most diverse in history, yet there is still a long road ahead to increase diversity among both Members and staff,” the staff associations wrote. “As a coalition of Congressional Staff Organizations, we encourage you to work with us to make diversity and inclusion a priority in your hiring for your Washington, D.C., and local offices, particularly for senior staff roles."

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The coalition noted recent studies that revealed diversity among congressional staffers remains disproportionately low.

“In 2019, the House ... conducted a survey of congressional staff diversity that found that 69.5 percent of House employees are White. Staff of color are particularly underrepresented in senior positions, where they make up only 21 percent of senior staff in the House,” the letter reads. “In addition, an August 2020 report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that people of color make up only 11 percent of senior staff in Senate personal offices.”

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’s report did find that the percentage of staffers of color in top Senate positions — defined as chief of staff, legislative director and communications director — had increased since 2015, but only by 4 percent.

Congress has made an effort to increase staff diversity. Senate Democrats began releasing reports on the racial makeup of their staffs in 2017, and in 2019, the House created its own Office of Inclusion and Diversity to help spur more diverse hires.

This year, Senate Democrats reported seven senators had staffs that were more than 50 percent nonwhite. Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Policy center calls for new lawmakers to make diverse hires Dangerously fast slaughter speeds are putting animals, people at greater risk during COVID-19 crisis MORE (D-N.J.) had the most diverse staff, with 65 percent of his staff identifying as nonwhite, though no senator had a top staff that consisted entirely of people of color.

“It is imperative that we continue to strive towards a representative and diverse congressional workforce,” the groups wrote.

This session of Congress was the most diverse ever, with 116 lawmakers identifying as nonwhite, including a record number of women of color.