Democratic senators employ an overwhelming number of white and mostly women, according to a new report on diversity in some congressional offices.
The current Congress reportedly stands as the most diverse in history, with more minority lawmakers than ever before and a record 21 women in the Senate.
However, pressure has mounted for lawmakers to fill jobs with African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a report that revealed his party’s staffing is mostly white. Schumer’s report noted that 32 percent of staffers are “non-Caucasian,” defined as African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, Native American or Middle Eastern/North African.
Fifty-four percent of staffers are women, 46 percent are men.
So, when South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott introduced Senate Resolution 11 earlier this year, he received praise from BET founder Robert L. Johnson because the measure drew ideas from Johnson’s “RLJ Rule” which encourages hiring practices to ensure that applicants from every walk of life are given an opportunity to participate in the hiring process.
“I want to commend Senator Scott for introducing [the resolution], which calls for companies to increase diversity in the workplace and minority business opportunities, through enhanced best practices, interviewing at least two qualified minority candidates for management positions, and at least two qualified minority businesses for vendor contract opportunities prior to making a hiring or contract decision,” said Johnson, the chairman of the RLJ companies.
To Johnson and others, it came as little surprise this month when Scott — the only Republican African-American senator — stood out in another gloomy report, this time by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
The report recognized Scott’s diverse staff and noted that he employs an African American as his chief of staff.
“Diversity is incredibly important to my state and of course critically important to me,” Scott said.
“Those folks who don’t have diversity, jeopardizes future success and I’m quick to remind people that you can find great candidates for almost any position if you know how to diversify our poll of applications,” he said.
Of the Senate’s 336 top staff jobs — those that carry six-figure salaries and a strong voice on many crucial matters — just 24 were held by individuals of color during the last Congress.
“We know that all Americans, from every neighborhood and background, have the ability to achieve great things,” said Scott, the first African American to serve in both the House and Senate.
“When we are hiring in my office, I have made it a priority to ensure our applicant pool is open to as diverse a group of people as possible,” he said.
Diversity isn’t something Scott has only strived for in the Senate, but he’s done so throughout his home state.
Scott said he’s encouraged by the progress in South Carolina.
“Look at the last five years of documentation where minority-owned businesses have increased by 44 percent in South Carolina and, for the first time in the history of the state, we will have a Black commander of highway patrol,” Scott said.
On July 1, officials announced that Col. Christopher Williamson would succeed the retiring Col. Michael Oliver to become commander. Williamson, a native of Darlington, had served as a deputy commander and has been with the patrol since 1988, working in the Charleston and Orangeburg areas.
Scott also noted other diverse hires across the state including that of Max Allen, a former Naval officer, who was named chief of staff at Clemson University two years ago.
There was also the success of Frank Martin, a Hispanic who, as head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, led the team to an unlikely journey into the Final Four this year.
“When you look at some areas of academics, athletes and business, you start to see a good snapshot of the nation, but you see it — diversity — right here in South Carolina,” Scott said.
The goal, he said, isn’t just to have diverse outcomes, but to open the door for even more diversity.
“I do think it’s important that those who have a voice, encourage others to follow and what we are doing in our own spheres of influence is important and not to the exclusion of any group but specifically not to the exclusion of minorities,” Scott said.