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The New Congress Must Change 'Appalling Lack of Diversity Among Top Staff'

As a result of Tuesday’s midterm elections, Democrats have won a majority in the House of Representatives, and Republicans will remain in control of the Senate, but Congress, as a whole, needs to make diversity a priority when it comes to hiring top staff members.

“Members of Congress have a real opportunity to address the appalling lack of diversity among top staff in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate as they prepare for the 116th Congress,” Spencer Overton, president of The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Over the next two months, new members and returning members of both parties in both the House and Senate will have scores of top and mid-level positions to fill. All of these members should take this opportunity to hire talented leaders from diverse backgrounds and ensure top and mid-level staff reflect the diversity of America.”

The Joint Center released a study in September, “Racial Diversity Among Top U.S. House Staff,” which revealed a drastic lack of top-staff diversity.

“The American public was more likely to elect a person of color to the House than House members were to hire top staff of color,” according to the report.

The top staff of House members is overwhelmingly white, with 313 representatives — about three-quarters — having no people of color in their offices’ top three positions. Even though people of color account for 38 percent of the U.S. population, they made up only 13.7 percent of all top House staff.

And, of the 350 White House members, only 10 Republican members and six Democratic members have chiefs of staff of color. Much of the House Democrats’ top staff diversity comes from Congressional Black Caucus members.

Related Story: The 115th Congress Not a Model for Diversity

In 2017, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a report, which found that despite having 16 women in the caucus and more minority senators than ever, Democratic Senate staffing is overwhelmingly white.

The Joint Center’s 2015 report “Racial Diversity Among Top Senate Staff,” found that people of color accounted for only 7.1 percent of top Senate staffers.

The people in the top jobs play key roles in helping elected congressional members write policy and set political agendas for the U.S. population that, again, is 38 percent racial minority.

So, if Congress does not become more diverse, it is not serving its constituents. With Tuesday’s wins, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has the opportunity to usher in the most diverse leadership team (in either chamber) in the history of Congress.

The Joint Center said in a statement:

“Republican and Democratic floor leadership in both the House and the Senate should develop diversity hiring goals, adopt the Rooney Rule, collect and annually publish demographic data on each staff position in each office of their caucus, and provide adequate staff and other resources to help identify, prepare, and refer diverse candidates for top and mid-level staff position openings.

“Senate Democrats have already adopted the Rooney Rule and disclose data annually.”

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