- Kemba Hendrix will be appointed director of the newly established House of Representatives Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced March 10. The independent and nonpartisan office was an initiative included in the House Rules package passed at the outset of the 116th Congress in an effort to reflect the diversity of the American people, Pelosi said in a statement.
- House staff participated in the first-ever survey on compensation, benefits and demographics in July 2019, in accordance with the FY19 Legislative Branch Appropriations report and House Rules for the 116th Congress, according to the announcement. The guidelines offered in the diversity and compensation study will serve as key parameters for the new office, as well as guidance from the caucuses that represent diversity throughout the House community, the announcement stated.
- Hendrix, who earned a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law, will transition from her position as the director of the House Democratic Diversity Initiative to spearhead a diversity plan for the House focusing on improving recruitment, retention and development of a diverse workforce. As stated in the announcement, the office will also act as a resource for House employing offices and increase awareness of diversity issues among Congressional staff.
The House taking steps to improve recruitment and retention of diverse employees is comparable to work being done by American businesses. Diversity in the workplace enhances business performance, according to research.
For companies looking to adopt diversity and inclusion (D&l) strategies, appointing a chief diversity officer (CDO) is now a common protocol. Nearly half of the organizations represented in a 2019 study by management consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates had a CDO, and 63% of those CDOs were promoted or appointed to their roles within the past three years.
However, researchers said that solely appointing a CDO is not enough to produce longstanding changes in D&I initiatives. Instead, such moves must be aligned with business priorities, receive appropriate resources and make use of analytics to establish key performance indicators, the researchers said.
Appointing a CDO along with hiring human resources professionals and establishing a clear mandate for the office were some of the recommendations the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies made when the House created the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. In a 2018 study, Racial Diversity Among Top U.S. House Staff, researchers said that people of color represented only 13.7% of all top House staff, less than the percentage of people of color in the U.S. population (38%). The study also stated that Latino members' top staff did not reflect the heavily Latino districts that they represented; and there were no Latino, Asian American Pacific Islander or Native American individuals serving as full committee staff directors, leadership office chiefs of staff, policy directors or communications directors.
Hendrix said in a statement that under Pelosi's leadership, "the House has already taken large strides towards creating a more equitable and inclusive workforce." In her new role, Hendrix said she will "provide members, committees and House Officers with additional resources to assist in their diversity staffing efforts."