Does representation matter?
The catch-all phrase has been popular in mainstream media and used by corporations to showcase support of anti-racism. Most companies find themselves teetering on the line of real change and performative gestures and consumers are holding them accountable to do real work in real time. The climate of racial tensions has propelled nationwide community conversations about diversity and inclusion, of which Frederick, Maryland is a part. People of color are demanding they be invited to the table to push progression forward. In small towns, city halls and county councils are seen as institutions responsible for the most change and one should feel empowered to participate. But in government, equal representation has generally been askew. Frederick County Government is one of many institutions that fall short in diversity and inclusion.
Earlier this month, County Executive Jan Gardner provided the Affirmative Action Quarterly Reports from December 31, 2019 to March 31, 2020 and the numbers are damning.
They confirm community concerns of lack of diversity and opportunities for people of color.
The percentages for minorities and African-Americans in the County Government workforce are 10.1% and 5.4% respectively. Of the 109 new-hires this quarter, there were 16 Minority placements (14.7%) of which 7 were African American (6.4%). The County Executive staff is reported to have two minority staff members after a recent July hire while the County Council has none.
Of the 487 supervisor positions available during the 2019 fiscal year, 10 African-Americans hold that role and even fewer are shared among Asian, Hispanic or Latin American, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander employees. Two out of 21 department heads are African-American, all others white.
Under-representation misses the full spectrum of perspective and experience. It only tells one part of the story while the other pieces go undiscovered. How can all be heard if everyone is not in the room?
Inclusion may have been discussed in years prior, but it was only until recently that the Frederick County government took action to diversify its workforce, evident by the newly formed Diversity Committee in 2018 tasked with working on a DNI, Diversity and Inclusion Plan.
Its recommendations include a goal of increasing the number of hires from under-represented groups by 15% for FY20 and county-wide racial bias training. Current community diversity resources on the county government website have listed Deaf & Hard of Hearing and LGBTQ liaisons, both representing under-served communities. Though heading in the right direction, representation in Frederick is still incomplete.
I envision a community where everyone feels a sense of belonging and can share in our community’s prosperity. Frederick County Government must lead by example.
Gardner recently created a Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer position to tackle issues of diversity, championing for the city to “lead by example.”
The work must be done.
Frederick County Government should continue to take steps to become more reflective of the melting pot that exists by finding qualified people of color to sit at our table and create the city and world we are supposed to be: a true democracy.