Heard on the Hill

Top Diversity Associations on Capitol Hill Run by Women

All four major diversity congressional staff associations are run by women for first time ever

From left, Victoria Rivas, president of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association; Francesca McCrary, president of the Congressional Black Associates; Moh Sharma, president of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association; and Yasmin Rigney, president of the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

For the first time, women now head the four largest congressional staff diversity associations.

And they say that makes perfect sense after all the focus on sexual harassment and gender disparity over the past year.

“It’s reflective of the year we’ve had,” said Yasmin Rigney, who has been president of the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus since March 2017.

Moh Sharma, who’s served as president of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association since 2014, agreed.

“I think that last year was a special year for women in terms of women’s voices being heard and women feeling empowered,” said Sharma, director of outreach and member services and senior policy adviser for the Small Business Committee minority.

[Black Women Movers and Shakers on Capitol Hill]

It became apparent that the four organizations would all be headed by women in February, when the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association held elections to replace its former president. All the top candidates were female.

Victoria Rivas, legislative assistant for Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, was elected president at the end of February. She said she is excited to see a change in leadership.

“When you look back on history, it’s kind of the same thing that you see in any elected office — there’s always a panel of all men up top,” Rivas said. “It’s really unique and really exciting that it’s all women this time around.”

[Women Who Run the Show]

The vice presidents of each association are also women.

“It feels as though I can have full faith that I can pass the torch along,” said Francesca McCrary, president of the Congressional Black Associates. “It’s exciting to have these women who are so ready and willing to continue.”

The four women have been working together on events and to coordinate their goals.

“It is stressful to be one of 25 people in your office to be a black woman or to be a Pacific Islander woman,” said Rigney, legislative assistant and policy adviser for Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

A congressional staff association, she said, offers a different experience.

“I’m not ‘one of’ here,” she said. “All of us here are minorities.” Rigney’s caucus has roughly 60 members and celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.

[From Assistant to Chief, Women Heading Hill Offices]

A round table discussion about women of color moving up on the Hill is one of the many events the presidents are planning.

“We want more women of color and more people of color in leadership positions,” Sharma said. Her association has about 50 members and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

McCrary, professional staff member for the House Oversight Committee minority staff, said working with the other female presidents has been nothing but positive.

“To have someone who is just as energized … it’s great,” she said. McCrary’s group has about 70 members and is celebrating its 40th anniversary next year.

Rivas said female presidents help ensure that women on the Hill — especially women of color — “feel like they belong, that they have a seat at the table, that their voice is also being heard.” Her group has about 150 members and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Watch: Former Congresswomen Reflect on Sexual Harassment Issues

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