House Democrats Are Taking An Important Step Toward Diversity

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House Democrats are adopting new rules in an effort to promote staff diversity on Capitol Hill.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership team launched the House Democratic Diversity Initiative on Wednesday. The project, based on the NFL's "Rooney Rule," will place a full-time staffer in charge of increasing diversity among the House Democrats' staffs and expanding potential opportunities for diverse candidates at every employment level. The effort also includes the creation of a database of applicants and strengthening relationships with minority organizations in order to identify potential candidates for House staffing positions.
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The "Rooney Rule" was named named for Dan Rooney, the Pittsburgh Steelers's owner, who died earlier this year. In 2003, Rooney convinced the NFL to implement a policy requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching or senior operations positions. The rule did not automatically result in the hiring of minority candidates, but it forced teams to seek out diverse candidates. The "Rooney Rule" has expanded to other industries that struggle with hiring and retaining minority staffers, such as the tech industry.
By using the rule as a guide for the House Democratic Diversity Initiative, Democrats hope to build a more diverse staff.
"House Democrats take great pride in the fact that our Caucus is more than 50% minorities, women, and LGBT Members," Pelosi said in a statement. "We do so because we understand that the beauty is in the mix, and the diversity in our ranks is both a strength and a reflection of the American people it is our great honor to serve. Our Committees and our Caucus will be strengthened by having the advice and expertise of staff, especially in senior positions, who themselves embody the diversity of America."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a similar project in the Senate earlier this year, with the goal of working with every Democratic office in the upper chamber to develop better diverse hiring practices.
According to the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus, only 4.9% of Senate staffers are Black. Latinx staffers are also deeply unrepresented.
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Unpaid internships and low-paying entry-level positions are among the reasons there's so little diversity on Capitol Hill.  The U.S. was shown a glaring example last year, when House Speaker Paul Ryan shared a selfie with 100 summer interns, most of whom were white.

I think this sets a record for the most number of #CapitolHill interns in a single selfie. #SpeakerSelfie.

A post shared by Speaker Paul Ryan (@speakerryan) on

Studies have found that having a diverse staff is key to driving innovation, creativity, and problem-solving. In the case of congressional staffers, hiring minority candidates also helps bring other life experiences and world views that can help shape policy benefitting every American.
And by diverse staff we're not talking only about race, ethnicity, and gender. We should also include differently-abled folks, people from different socioeconomic status, and those with different faiths.
By adopting these rules, House Democrats are working toward creating a staff that looks more like the composition of the United States. It may not be the only solution, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.
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