A Change for the Better: House Rules on Staff Diversity
Diversity matters. In a world that is both diverse and deeply interconnected, companies and institutions with greater levels of diversity are achieving better performance. Most organisations, including McKinsey, have more work to do to take full advantage of the opportunity presented by a more diverse leadership team. Organisations also have more work to do on their talent pipeline to attract, develop, mentor, sponsor, and retain the next generations of diverse leaders at all levels. But with the rewards of diversity set to increase, investing now is the best plan. Winners will pull further ahead and laggards will fall further behind.
—Management Consulting Report
“Diversity Matters,” McKinsey & Co.
The National Urban League congratulates the U.S. House of Representatives, which approved a rules package creating a new Office of Diversity and Inclusion and requiring the appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer and the development of a diversity plan.
Congressional staff diversity has long been a top priority of the National Urban League. Just last month, we joined with more than 60 other national civil and human rights organizations and stakeholders in sending a letter calling on Members of Congress to prioritize diversity in hiring top staff.
In the letter we encouraged the Members to take the following steps:
1. Set Clear Goals: Promptly develop hiring goals to ensure diversity among those hired in new top and key mid-level staff position openings in your office.
2. Adopt a Diversity Plan: Develop a written office diversity and inclusion plan that includes recruitment and hiring goals, retention and development strategies for staff, data collection and analysis procedures, a clear allocation of responsibility among staff and performance evaluation for implementation of the plan, and unconscious bias training for all managerial staff involved in recruitment, hiring, evaluation, and retention.
3. Adopt the Rooney Rule: Formally adopt and implement the Rooney Rule, which would require your office to interview at least one person of color for every top and key midlevel staff position opening. Senate Democrats adopted this rule in 2017. Data should be kept to measure the compliance and effectiveness of the rule.
4. Support Chamber-Wide or Conference-Wide Efforts to Improve Staff Diversity, such as the creation of an independent and bipartisan Diversity Office, the disclosure of demographic data of staff, and adoption of the Rooney Rule.
These are the same recommendations we made when we hosted a panel on diversity at the U.S. Senate nearly two years ago.
Soon afterward, we delivered senior-level resumes of qualified, African-American candidates to senators who represent states with a high percentage of minority residents. Our intention was to encourage senators to consider a diverse pool of candidates when hiring for positions like chief of staff, legislative director, and communications director.
Newly-elected Senator Doug Jones of Alabama last January appointed the first Black Chief of Staff in the Democratic caucus, joining Republican Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
In a letter accompanying the resumes we sent to the Senate, I wrote:
At the core of economic civil rights is the idea that all people should have access to jobs for which they are qualified. Despite the progress this country has made related to corporate diversity and inclusion, our Congress, specifically the U.S. Senate, has failed to move the needle when it comes to diversity and inclusion. This is deeply concerning and an embarrassment to our country. While policy decisions affecting all Americans are debated in the halls of Congress, persons of color are largely absent in top-level staff positions. Thus, on issues like education, the economy, health care, and decisions of war and peace, Members of Congress are legislating without the perspective of black and brown staff.
According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, more than 31 percent of top staffers hired so far by newly-elected House Members are people of color. As of September, fewer than 14 percent of top staff in the House were people of color.
The rule change is a significant step toward a Congress that truly represents the rich diversity of the nation and an expansion of economic opportunity for all Americans.
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Lucy Durr Hackney
When Lucy Durr married Sheldon Hackney in 1957, the custom alterations to her beautiful gown were done for her by a family friend—Mrs. Rosa Parks. This wonderful detail opens a small window into my dear friend and former Children’s Defense Fund board and volunteer staff member Lucy Durr Hackney’s extraordinary life. Lucy, who passed away last October at age 81, was the daughter of civil rights activists Virginia and Clifford Durr and niece of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. She followed her family’s staunch commitment to social justice and led a selfless life of loving service and support to family, friends, just causes, community and nation.
By the time Lucy got married her parents were well known for their work with progressive causes and local support of civil rights activists and leaders in Montgomery, Alabama. Clifford Durr was an attorney who had worked in President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration and defended citizens accused of communism during the McCarthy era. Virginia Durr was friends with Eleanor Roosevelt and one of the founding members of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW), an interracial group working to reduce segregation and improve living conditions in the South. Virginia Durr and Mrs. Parks were part of an interracial women’s group in Montgomery and Mrs. Durr had helped arrange a scholarship for Mrs. Parks to attend Highlander Folk School for training in nonviolent action in the summer of 1955. When Mrs. Parks was arrested four months later, Clifford Durr helped bail her out of jail and Virginia Durr drove her home. During the tumultuous months that followed, Clifford Durr was one of Mrs. Parks’s attorneys and Virginia Durr strongly supported the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the network of White women who helped drive Black women to work who stayed away from riding the buses.
Lucy left the segregated South for Radcliffe College in Massachusetts but returned to Alabama to marry Sheldon, another Alabama native who shared the same commitment to civil rights and social justice. Their marvelous partnership lasted the rest of their lives. As Sheldon, a Southern historian, went on to become a university leader, Lucy continued her education while raising their three children—completing her undergraduate degree at Princeton University where Sheldon served as provost and earning her law degree at Tulane University while Sheldon served as president. She rose early and went to bed late to get her multiple responsibilities done.
When Sheldon became President of the University of Pennsylvania, Lucy began working as a staff attorney at the Juvenile Law Center where her family notes she was “tenacious” in her work on behalf of children’s health, welfare, and justice programs, and founded Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to improving the health, well-being and education of Pennsylvania children that helped 100,000 previously uninsured young people in Pennsylvania receive health coverage. Lucy and Sheldon’s oldest daughter Virginia suffered a brain injury at birth which fed Lucy’s passion for helping children, especially those with disabilities and other special needs, and making sure all children got the education and support they needed to transition to successful adult lives. She called Virginia her “muse,” and Virginia, son Fain, daughter Elizabeth, and eventually Lucy’s beloved grandchildren were her inspiration in all she did as a fierce child advocate.
Lucy was a board member at the Children’s Defense Fund alongside Hillary Rodham Clinton as well as serving as a volunteer CDF staff member when she spent several years in Washington, D.C. when Sheldon served as Chairman for the National Endowment for the Humanities in the Clinton administration. What a joy and privilege it was to know and work with her over the decades. She was beautiful inside and out and brought light wherever she went. Her family writes: “Lucy was the rock of her immediate and extended family. She was vibrant and full of energy. She was unrelentingly optimistic. ‘There will be no woe is me!’ was a favorite saying. She offered a smile and a greeting to all those she encountered. She was an amazing mother and grandmother. She could be counted on 100% by her family whenever she was needed. She would defend any family member even when they were wrong. Unconditional love is hard to find—and she gave it to her family in full measure.” Lucy Durr Hackney continued her parents’ legacy to its fullest throughout her committed life of service and child advocacy. We are all beneficiaries—especially children—and I feel so lucky she was my friend.
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Committee Assignments For Legislative Year 2019
Prince George’s County Council Chair Todd M. Turner (D)—District 4, has announced Legislative Year 2019 Council committee assignments. The Council voted last July to amend its Rules of Procedure, allowing for a restructuring of Council standing committees. The new committee structure accommodates the expansion of the legislative body from nine to eleven members, increasing the number of standing committees from five to six.
Council Chair Turner notes the Council accomplishes most of its work through its standing committees, adding, “The primary role of our committees in the legislative process is twofold—to consider proposed legislation under review, and conduct the Council’s budget review and adoption process, including important fiscal and program oversight over the spending of assigned departments and agencies. This year’s committee leadership and assignments strike an important balance, applying diverse perspectives and a wealth of experience and skill, among all Council Members, returning and new, to perform the important work ahead this year.”
Council Member Sydney Harrison (D)—District 9, will chair the Education and Workforce Development Committee (EWD), with Council Member Derrick L. Davis (D)—District 6, serving as vice-chair. EWD members include Council Member At-Large Mel Franklin, and Council Members Deni Taveras (D)—District 2, and Monique Anderson Walker (D)—District 8. EWD will include oversight of the Prince George’s County Public Schools System; Community College; Memorial Library System; and Workforce Development programs, enabling a focus on the shared priority of college and career readiness.
Council Member At-Large Calvin Hawkins, II, will serve as Health, Human Services and Public Safety Committee (HSPS) chair, assisted in this work by Council Member Jolene Ivey (D)—District 5, who will serve as committee vice chair. Committee members include Council Members Mel Franklin, Sydney Harrison and Deni Taveras. Included among the agencies, institutions and issues of concern to HSPS: Prince George’s County Public Safety agencies. the Court system; Citizens Complaint Oversight Panel; University of Maryland Capital Region Health; County Health Department; and Department of Social Services.
Council Member Dannielle Glaros (D)—District 3, will chair the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee (PHED). Council Member Calvin Hawkins, II, is committee vice chair. PHED Members include Council Members Derrick L. Davis, Thomas E. Dernoga (D)—District 1 and Jolene Ivey. In addition to County zoning and subdivision bills, and planning and land-use regulations, PHED will also support the outcomes of the Council’s economic development initiatives, and maintain a focus on housing policy, permitting and code enforcement within the Departments of Housing and Community Development and Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement respectively; the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, as well as the People’s Zoning Counsel.
Council Member Derrick L. Davis will serve as chair of the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee (GOFP) and Council Member Thomas E. Dernoga will serve as vice-chair. Committee Members include Council Members Calvin Hawkins, II, Rodney Streeter (D)—District 7 and Monique Anderson-Walker. GOFP is responsible for several issues and policies related to general government, labor agreements, bond issues, budget and financial management, and cable television and telecommunications. Agency review responsibilities include the Office of Central Services; Office of Community Relations; Board of Elections, Board of License Commissioners; Office of Finance; Office of Human Resources Management; Human Relations Commission; Personnel Board; Office of Information Technology; Office of Law; Board of Ethics; Office of Management and Budget; and the Revenue Authority.
The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee (TIEE), will be led by Council Member Deni Taveras as chair and Council Member Monique Anderson Walker who will serve as vice chair. Committee Members include Council Members Thomas E. Dernoga, Dannielle Glaros and Council Chair Todd Turner. TIEE handles legislative matters pertaining to transportation policy and planning, as well as environmental protections, green infrastructure and conservation and energy programs. Agency review responsibilities include the Department of the Environment; Animal Control; Department of Public Works and Transportation; the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission; and the Washington Suburban Transit Commission.
Council Vice Chair Streeter and Council Member Franklin will preside over the General Assembly Committee as chair and vice-chair, respectively. Members include Council Members Jolene Ivey, Sydney Harrison and Council Chair Todd Turner.
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