In December 2015, there were 336 top Senate staffers (Chiefs of Staff, Legislative Directors, Communications Directors, and Staff Directors), but only 24 staffers of color–12 Asian Americans, 7 Latinos, 3 African Americans, and 2 Native Americans.
|Top Senate Staff
Currently, of the 39 Staff Directors of full Senate Committees (both Majority and Minority), none are Latino or African American.
This is a problem for both Democrats and Republicans. For example, although African Americans account for 22% of Democratic voters, they account for less than 1% of Democratic top staff. Of the 5 Black top staffers in the U.S. Senate, only one is a Democrat (the other four are Republicans). Democrats have:
- No African-American Chiefs of Staff
- No African-American Communications Directors
- No African-American Staff Directors
- Only one African-American Legislative Director
Why is this a problem?
Top staffers in Washington, DC:
- Manage the Senate legislative agenda
- Shape the $3.8 trillion U.S. federal budget
- Provide oversight of all federal agencies
- Collectively has over 4.1 million employees
- Hire, manage, and dismiss Senate staff
Senate has the power to confirm:
- U.S. Ambassadors
- Federal Judges
- Cabinet Secretaries
- Other top federal agency commissioners and officials
All Senators should take several steps to increase diversity:
- Interview and hire people of color as legislative assistants, so that at least half of the LAs in an office are POC
- Be more transparent about who works in each office
- Employ the National Football League’s (NFL) “Rooney Rule” in all hiring processes
- Establish a competitive, senior-level minority fellowship, and hire interns and fellows from APAICS, CBCF, CHCI, and the GW Native American Political Leadership Program
- Centralize diversity resources for Senators and staff
- Develop and adopt a diversity plan for each personal office and committee office
- Require implicit bias training for staff who make hiring and staff evaluation decisions
- Support legislation for a Chief Diversity Officer for the U.S. Senate set to be proposed in 2017
Local civil rights groups can:
- Provide quotes and be available to press
- Ask your Senator for a regular check-in (e.g. conference call) about staff diversity and hiring
- Generate local interest on the issue of hiring diversity
Media outlets can:
- Educate the public about the importance of top staff and racial diversity, and ask your Senator about the status of the issue.
Click here for a printable pdf of this fact sheet.
Click here for Joint Center President Spencer Overton’s statement on Top Congressional Staff hires.