Over the last several years, the conversation over who holds power in the upper echelons of the private sector and government have increasingly focused on the lack of women and people of color. Indeed, the University of California, Davis produced over a decade’s worth of data which shows that about 97% of board-level and CEO positions in the top 400 companies in California are held by men.
Hell, in what is often-considered the most progressive state in the Union, we’ve still never had a female Governor.
I remember becoming particularly interested in this topic when looking at our own city council and realizing that there was just one woman sitting at the dais. After deciding to take a deep dive, in March of 2016 I wrote a piece that looked at the makeup of city boards and commissions, elected offices, and leadership positions within the city.
Of course, it was already clear that we were lacking in elected city positions in terms of gender diversity, but I was surprised to find out – according to the city’s own department leadership diagram – that only about 13 percent of upper management positions were held by women. Also, while the aggregate of boards and commissions were about 40 percent women, the commissions with decision-making power, such as the Planning and Design Commission, were seriously lacking (2 members out of 13).
Due to a lack of data and expertise, my analysis missed a larger question entirely — the intersectionality of ethnicity. The city has made modest strides over time with diversity in elected office; Milton McGhee (elected 1967) was the first African American city council member, Manuel Ferrales (elected 1969) was the first Latino council member, and Robert Matsui (elected 1971) was the first Japanese American council member.
But of course we wonder, where are the women of color? The answer is: not generally in positions of power. Recently, the city decided that needed to change, and while historically it hasn’t meaningfully gathered data on diversity or analyzed who holds the power, it does now.
In April of 2016, Councilmember Angelique Ashby partnered with the research firm McKinsey to determine just what the “diversity deficit” is in Sacramento, and how we might move forward with solutions. That began with a Gender Parity Report Card issued out of her office, which not only noted the lack of women in management positions as well as a significant differences in pay (spoiler: women make less than men), but suggested actionable solutions such as hiring a Diversity Manager.
Ultimately, the city decided to move forward with that recommendation and is in the process of hiring for that position.
That study spurred the call for a city-wide Gender and Ethnic Diversity Audit, which was released in July of 2016. As the Sacramento Bee pointed out, “the city’s employees – and its Police and Fire departments – are significantly less diverse than the public they serve. In all but two of 17 city departments examined, more than 50 percent of managers are white.”
In a nutshell, we found out there is a lot of work to be done to ensure our city leadership mirrors its population.
Now, fast forward a year and five months, and the city released yet another audit of its ethnic and gender diversity. Overall, the results show that not much progress has been made in the past year and there is still a lot of work to be done, but also that there is significant movement underway.
In a February City Council hearing on the audit, the community came together to voice their opinions.
Via Consulting Group’s Jennifer Manuel, a local business-owner focused on closing the gender pay gap and the Chair of the Women and Girls Advancement Coalition noted in her testimony, “While the audit raises short-term challenges that require immediate attention, our coalition is concerned that the city does not yet have a comprehensive plan to address gender and racial disparities over the long-term. The audit shows us that we must take action to move beyond reporting and begin to design solutions – including the need to start with the proper classification of all City employees”
After going on to discuss the actionable ways the city can make progress now while we wait for the hiring of a Diversity Manager, including bringing together a broader coalition of stakeholders into the process, she went on to say, “we see this as a major step forward to achieve pay equity for women from all backgrounds, people of color, and LGBTQ employees.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Activist and board member for the Fem Dems of Sacramento, Mary McCune, wrote to the city, “The Fem Dems look forward to how City Council uses the most recent audit to determine its next steps towards creating a city workforce that welcomes and uplifts all members of the community and offers its support and expertise whenever possible.”
And the last speaker, Nicolina Hernandez, who is not only a newly appointed Latina woman to the Planning and Design Commission, but a member of the Mayor’s working group on Sacramento’s future economic growth, left it on the perfect note. “I agree that this is a very bold move that the city is undertaking, and I see that this audit has shed light on areas where the city can embrace policies and practices to increase diversity,” Hernandez stated. “I commend everyone who has participated in these discussions.”
Indeed, while things may not have moved as quickly as some hoped, I have to say I couldn’t be more proud to live in a city that prioritizes equity for all and is willing to take a good, hard look at itself to make that happen.
This is progress.
So, how can you get involved?
- If you or someone you know would be a great fit for the Diversity Manager position, apply here.
- Find out who your city council member is here, and send your feedback.
- Connect with local organizations such as the Fem Dems of Sacramento, InspireMidtown, and California Women Lead.
- Encourage your friends and loved ones to apply for that leadership position, run for office, and take the lead!