Diversity data gaps

Surprisingly, some state agencies don't track their minority hiring

EVERY YEAR, THE governor’s Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity publishes a detailed report on the diversity of the workforce at each of the executive branch secretariats, now numbering nine. But many other parts of state government —the constitutional officers, the Legislature, the judiciary, and the various state authorities—rarely, if ever, release any diversity data on their employees.

So we decided to ask them for the information.

What we found is that many of these government agencies don’t appear to track diversity data as a matter of course. Some assembled the information in response to our request; others had no interest in gathering the data.

Count the Legislature, Secretary of State William Galvin, Inspector General Glenn Cunha, the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board, and the Massachusetts State College Building Authority in the latter category.

“We have no real reason to collect the data,” says Edward Adelman, executive director of the college building authority. “We hire the most highly qualified people to do the work without regard to what we would call, you know, sort of non-merit factors.”

Galvin and Cunha both declined comment on why their offices don’t gather diversity data.

Some of the diversity data provided by the government agencies wasn’t very detailed. For example, some agencies listed the number of minority employees but failed to provide a breakdown by race, ethnicity, or job category. The absence of a breakdown by job category made it impossible to assess whether minorities were employed throughout the organization or concentrated in low-level positions.

Rep. Byron Rushing, the House assistant majority leader and a member of the Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus, says he was surprised agencies didn’t collect the data or only collected if asked for it. “You can’t take diversity seriously and not collect the data,” says Rushing. “Statistics are important.”

Unlike his predecessors going back to at least Mitt Romney, Gov. Charlie Baker doesn’t include diversity information on his own office in the report he issues on the workforce of the state secretariats. In response to CommonWealth’s request, however, Baker reported that his 69-member staff is 21.6 percent minority, with 10.1 percent Hispanic, 7.2 percent black, and 4.3 percent Asian. The governor’s office provided no breakdown of minorities by job category.

Baker’s overall minority number was slightly better than the 20.7 percent target he set for the nine secretariats and 1.3 percentage points higher than his predecessor, Deval Patrick. Patrick, the state’s first black governor, who was well known for his strong emphasis on a diversified workforce, increased minority representation in his office by 15.1 percentage points compared to his predecessor, Romney.

Among current constitutional officers, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s office had the highest minority representation at 29.6 percent, followed by Baker at 21.6 percent, Auditor Suzanne Bump at 19.5 percent, and Attorney General Maura Healey at 17.5 percent.

Healey offered no breakdown of her employees by race, but she did analyze where minorities are located in the job hierarchy. Of the 272 lawyers working in Healey’s office, 12.5 percent are minorities. Of  the 61 supervisory lawyers, 13.1 percent are minorities.  She also reports that minorities make up 21.6 percent of the 315 non-lawyers and 13.3 percent of the 45 supervisory non-lawyers.

The judiciary declined to provide diversity data on its employees, but some limited information has surfaced as a result of a lawsuit filed in 2016 by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. In response to the lawsuit, the Trial Court turned over data on court officers that suggested wide disparities among individual courts within Suffolk County. Minority representation among court officers ranged from a low of zero percent at the John Adams Courthouse to a high of 67 percent at the Boston Housing Court. For all 11 courthouses, the minority average was 34 percent.

We surveyed more than 40 quasi-public state agencies, 15 regional transit authorities, the State Ethics Commission, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and the Inspector General. All of the data provided by the agencies is available (quasi-public agencies here, regional transportation agencies here, and independent agencies here.)

The most comprehensive diversity data from any state authority—and for that matter from all the entities contacted—came from the MBTA, which agreed to revamp its employment practices in an anti-bias agreement with the federal government in 2014.

The data indicate 44.8 percent of the T’s 6,369 employees are minorities—more than double the target used by the state in its diversity report on the secretariats.  The top employment category at the T, consisting of 1,203 workers, is 32.3 percent minority, with 21.6 percent blacks, 4.6 percent Hispanics, and 3.7 percent Asians.

The Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency reports 30.3 percent of its 333-member workforce are minorities. The minority percentages at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Convention Center, and the Steamship Authority are 21 percent, 21.2 percent, 22.2 percent, and 10.6 percent, respectively.

The Massachusetts Life Science Center says 40 percent of its workers are minorities. It is also the only quasi-public state agency with a minority official in the top job.

The 15 regional transit authorities employ relatively few workers directly, but four of them (Cape Ann, Franklin, Merrimack Valley, and Worcester) have no minorities. The largest regional authority, located on Martha’s Vineyard, says 7.4 percent of its 109 workers are a minority.

Meet the Author
Rep. Russell Holmes, a member of the Black and Latino Caucus on Beacon Hill, says all areas of state government should be a role model for diversity.

“Otherwise, how can we go to folks like our state vendors and insist in our contracts with them that they need to have a diverse workforce?  How can we can go and ask someone to do something that we’re not willing to do ourselves?” Holmes asks. “If diversity were a priority in state government, it would get measured. And what gets measured gets done.”