Financial Reform Promotes Diversity in the Workplace, Conservatives Object (Of Course)

By Merrill Miller, Communications Intern

Recently, much has been said about the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that President Obama signed into law on July 23. While many on the left support the act for its strong stance on Wall Street Reform, its oversight to prevent another economic meltdown and its protections for consumers, some on the right are looking for excuses to uphold the status quo and demonize the act.

The latest right-wing complaints focus on the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, a provision added by Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) that creates 20 new offices in federal agencies to regulate diversity in hiring and employment. These offices would be headed by directors — appointed by the president and approved by the Senate — who would ensure that fair hiring practices are enforced within federal agencies as well as in businesses with which the government contracts. If these business are not following inclusive employment practices, they will be investigated by the government and may even have their contracts terminated.

With unemployment for African Americans at 16 percent and for Latina/os at 12 percent, more inclusive employment practices seem like an effective way to bring in new workers with diverse experiences and innovative ideas. However, many in the right-wing have been whining that the new Inclusion Offices will start enforcing hiring quotas, which will bring in less qualified women and people of color at the expense of more qualified white men.

This claim simply isn’t true. There is nothing in the provision that mandates quotas. Directors of the offices will work with each federal agency to promote employment practices that align with the agency’s needs as well as comply with the provision to make employment more inclusive. And based on data from 2009, the government’s employment practices could stand to be a lot more inclusive. Of government employees, the vast majority are men (55.9 percent) and white (65.6 percent). African Americans make up 18 percent of the government’s work force, but only 6.5 percent of those at the senior pay level. Latina/os represent only 7.7 percent of the government work force, and while women of all races make up 44 percent of the government work force, only 29.95 percent of women make up senior level positions in the government.

The Office of Minority and Women Inclusion will be taking necessary steps to rectify these inequalities, and that doesn’t mean quotas. What it does mean is expanding the government’s hiring practices to include people whose resumes are often overlooked or whose skills are often ignored because of their gender or skin color. Essentially, the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion will be leveling the playing field for government employees and making the government hiring processes fairer for everyone. Why does that get conservatives so riled up?

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