Running state government’s diversity numbers
Positive trends overall, but some problem areas
A correction has been added to this story.
THE LATEST NUMBERS on diversity in state government indicate a positive trend overall with some areas performing better than others.
Government agencies are expected to reflect the population they serve. The Baker administration employs an outdated benchmark on its diversity dashboard, citing Census data from 2010 rather than 2020. Using 2020 data, the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute estimates 28.9 percent of the Massachusetts population is currently made up of minorities.
The executive branch’s entire workforce of 43,000 employees is comprised of 30.2 percent minorities — 3.8 percentage points more than it was in 2015, the year Gov. Charlie Baker first took office.
Comptroller data for the Legislature indicate minorities account for 11.9 percent of lawmakers and staff in the House and 12.5 percent in the Senate.
In the trial court, which began gathering and releasing diversity data after a 2016 lawsuit filed by Lawyers for Civil Rights, 26 percent of the workforce is made up of minorities.
As well as his administration is doing overall, Baker’s own office doesn’t fare so well — his 72-person workforce is made up of only 12.5 percent minorities. And Baker’s inner circle — his chief and assistant chiefs of staff, his senior advisor, his chief legal counsel, and his communications director — are all white, as are eight of nine of Baker’s cabinet chiefs. (Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story said all nine cabinet chiefs were white.)
Two of Baker’s nine executive offices also have low minority representation: Energy and Environmental Affairs has a 13.6 percent minority workforce and Public Safety and Security, 14.4 percent.
Since 2015, the year Baker took office, the Executive Office of Education has experienced the largest increase in minority representation (from 24.2 percent to 29.9 percent), while the Transportation Department has had the largest decrease (from 24.4 percent to 20.2 percent).
A Baker spokesperson said the administration is committed to expanding diversity but declined to comment on why the governor’s inner circle and some executive offices are failing to achieve good diversity numbers.
Segmenting diversity data by job hierarchy (officials, professionals, service workers, etc.) to assess whether minorities are employed in leadership positions or are in low-level jobs, the two agencies with the lowest number of minorities also have the lowest number in the highest job tier — officials and administrators. For Energy and Environmental Affairs, it was 12.7 percent. For Public Safety and Security, it was 9.4 percent.
Oren Sellstom, the litigation director for Lawyers for Civil Rights, is encouraged that data are now being collected by the trial court, but still has concerns. “As is often the case, once demographic data is made public, deficiencies and gaps become apparent,” he said. “In the case of the trial court, we continue to be concerned about the lack of equal opportunity for women of color.”
For years, state Rep. Russell Holmes, a member of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, said a diverse workforce has never been a big priority in the Legislature. “If it were a priority, you would be measuring it. Things that get measured get done. And things that get measured get improved,” he said. “The low numbers are not a surprise to me because I live it and I see it every day.”
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, also a member of the caucus, expressed concern about the rate of progress in achieving diversity in the Senate. “I think there are a lot of structural factors in the Senate that are not going to change anytime soon and are going to continue to be in place,” she said. “It is not the pace of change that I would like it to be.”