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Speaker’s Diversity Program Just Getting Under Way

Almost a year after Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said that a formal House diversity initiative was in the works, the House Administration Committee announced that the key component of the plan will be unveiled Monday.

The California Democrat announced in January that her office was developing an initiative, and in April the program was officially announced. The Speaker promised to create a résumé bank and website to highlight “diverse candidates” for positions on the Hill. But with just two weeks left in her tenure as Speaker, the database had yet to go live Friday.

A staffer with knowledge of the program said the database is finished and has been vetted but that plans to roll it out had not been publicized. Shortly after Roll Call inquired why the program was not yet implemented, the committee released a statement saying the “U.S. House of Representatives Diversity Employment Website” and résumé bank will be operational by Monday evening.

“The halls of Congress should reflect the diversity of our great nation. With that in mind, I am pleased that we will offer this new employment resource for House offices,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The new ideas, different ways of thinking and varied perspectives that a diverse professional staff will offer will strengthen our efforts on behalf of the American people.”

The site will feature a searchable database of résumés and allow candidates to voluntarily self-identify based upon several diversity categories, according to the release. It will also feature descriptions of Congressional staff positions, requirements and salary ranges.

“Anything that we can do to inform and educate potential candidates about expectations will directly impact their ability to succeed. This website will be an important tool in that effort,” House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) said in a statement.

House officials had planned to implement a diversity initiative for years, but the project was spurred by a December 2009 report by the Chief Administrative Officer showing dismal diversity data among House staffers.

The latest CAO House Compensation Survey, which polled 133 House offices in October about data such as hiring practices, recruitment and retention and diversity, was released Friday. And it found little change.

In 2010, 82 percent of chiefs of staff were white, compared with 87 percent last year and 89 percent in 2003. Among legislative directors, almost 86 percent this year are white, compared with almost 87 percent last year. And the percentage of white senior legislative aides increased to 79 percent from 78 percent in 2009.

Furthermore, only a quarter of House offices polled specifically reach out to minority-affiliated education institutions or organizations when recruiting new employees, with just 1 percent of offices reporting they do so “very often.”

Now it will fall to Republicans, who are taking over the House next year, to maintain the program.

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association, the Congressional Black Associates Staff Association, the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association and the Congressional Muslim Staff Association sent a letter Wednesday to Brady and GOP transition team Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) encouraging them to strengthen diversity efforts in the 112th Congress.

The Congressional Tri-Caucus sent a similar letter a few weeks ago.

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