Diversity concerns as black staff leave Congress

Congress pays its interns, but more than two-thirds were white in 2019, according to one report by Pay Our Interns, a nonprofit that adv...


Congress pays its interns, but more than two-thirds were white in 2019, according to one report by Pay Our Interns, a nonprofit that advocates for paid internships nationwide. But scholarships, which seek more experienced candidates than internships, are still sometimes unpaid. And while the House has created a Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Senate Democrats have started a diversity initiative, each congressional office operates independently, with no overall human resources department, leaving diversity offices with no power over hiring practices.

The Joint Center report also noted the disparity in hiring among political parties. Republicans tend to have a less diverse workforce overall, but Democrats, who rely heavily on the participation of people of color to win elections, don’t necessarily hire diverse staff.

According to the Joint Center, although black voters represented almost 40 percent of the 2016 Democratic turnout in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, the three states with the highest proportion of black residents represented by two Democratic senators, there is currently only one senior staff member who is black in all six Senate offices.

“You can’t just say, I need you to vote, and not also to reflect people of color in these key positions in advising members of Congress on legislation,” Ms. Brenson said.

In their letter, black staff associations called on Congress to make “thoughtful and fair hiring decisions.” But Ms Mathieu said members of Congress alone cannot be responsible for promoting diversity. The associations are also pushing for more programs to give historically black college and university students a path to a career on Capitol Hill.

Ms. Jefferson, a science professor from South Carolina, noted that she could only work at Capitol Hill on a one-year scholarship that earns her more than $ 80,000. But she said the program itself, which is open to educators of all backgrounds, is always working to increase diversity within its ranks. And the costs of that program are covered by a federal agency – not the congressman in whose office she works. The solution, she said, is to expand programs that create long-term investments in diversity.

“How can we create more paid internships where students of color can enter – and survive? Said Ms. Jefferson, who teaches in a predominantly black, low-income school district. “Many of my students would not have access to funding to support them with an unpaid position, living in Washington, DC, to pursue their dreams.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Diversity concerns as black staff leave Congress
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