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Editorial: City’s workforce still not diverse enough

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By - The Philadelphia Tribune

Image credit: Philadelphia Tribune - The skyline in Philadelphia along the Schuylkill River. — AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Last year, a report released by City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart found troubling numbers across most city departments: Whites are over-represented in Philadelphia’s municipal workforce.

Rhynhart’s report assessing diversity among the city-hired workforce showed white employees were over-represented relative to Philadelphia’s overall population and were among the highest paid.

The report covered the racial breakdown of the city’s 4,600 “exempt employees,” those hired by the city rather than the Civil Service System at the end of fiscal year 2018.

According to the analysis, in departments under the mayor’s office, 48.2% of the exempt workforce was white. For comparison, Philadelphia’s population was roughly 34% white and 66% non-white, according to 2018 census data. That non-white number included roughly 43% Black or African-American residents, nearly 15% Hispanic or Latino residents, and nearly 8% Asian residents.

Across the city’s exempt workforce, Hispanic and Latino employees formed the most under-represented group, followed by Black employees and Asian employees. The over-representation of white employees became starker when looking at exempt employees with salaries greater than $90,000.

A new report by the controller’s office on the diversity of the city’s salaried employees for 2019 shows slight improvement. The annual review breaks down salaried employees by department and race/ethnicity and the department’s representation compared with the city’s demographic makeup according to census data.

Diverse employees accounted for almost 53% of the city’s salaried workforce in fiscal 2019, a 1% increase from 2018. While the review shows there were improvements over the previous year, Rhynhart said the numbers could be better.

“My office looked at employee diversity data to determine if the City has made progress toward the goal of making the City’s workforce diversity mirror that of city demographics,” she said. “We found a very slight improvement was made compared to fiscal year 2018, but the improvement was not significant. The City’s exempt workforce is still not diverse enough.”

According to census data, Philadelphia’s population is 66% diverse (African Americans make up about 40% of the city’s population. Hispanics make up about 15% of Philadelphia’s population, Asians make up about 7%, and others account for about 3%).

Using census data as a benchmark, the review found that the racial and ethnic breakdown of the city government’s salaried employees was not representative of Philadelphia’s total population. Most departments are over-represented with white exempt employees. In departments under the mayor’s authority, 47% of the exempt workforce was white, while the city’s overall population is 34% white.

We agree with Rhynhart that the people who work in government should represent the people they serve both literally and figuratively.

“In government, the decisions we make on every level have a direct impact on Philadelphia residents,” she said. “The people making those decisions should be representative of the population they serve.”

While the majority of the city government’s workforce is hired through the Civil Service System, approximately 4,600 employees are not. The makeup of those employees is a direct reflection of the city’s ability to hire and retain diverse candidates.

There were improvements in the District Attorney’s Office, as well as a few other offices. The diversity in the District Attorney’s Office went from 28.6% to 31.2% of the salaried employees. The Commerce Department’s salaried staff was made up of 67% diverse employees.

Officials must continue to strive to make municipal employees more reflective of Philadelphia’s diverse population.

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