Diverse teams help Members of Congress understand the diverse perspectives of their districts and states, and provide representation of all Americans in their offices. However, many Members lack racial diversity among their personal office staff. The 117th Congress should prioritize diversity alongside a staffer’s past work experience and home-state connection.
In 2020, people of color made up 40 percent
of the U.S. population.
In 2018, people of color made up 13.7 percent of all top House staff
in personal offices.
In 2020, people of color made up 11 percent of all top Senate staff
in personal offices.
The Joint Center defines personal top staff as chief of staff, legislative director, and communications director.
For more data, see Joint Center reports Racial Diversity Among Top Staff in Senate Personal Offices and
Racial Diversity Among Top House Staff.
Partnering in the Call for Congressional Staff Diversity:
The Joint Center and over 70 civil rights and civil society organizations sent letters to new Members of Congress urging them to hire racially diverse people in their personal office top and key mid-level staff.
In the letters, one addressed to incoming House Members and the other addressed to incoming Senators, we recommended that the newly elected leaders adopt diversity plans and work with the Bipartisan House Diversity and Inclusion Office, Brain Trust for a Representative Democracy, and Tri-Caucus Staff Associations to recruit and retain people of color. We also urged newly elected Senators to support the establishment of the Bipartisan Senate Diversity and Inclusion Office, which could serve as a resource in the future.
In the Media
Joint Center Senior Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson penned an op-ed in The Hill calling for new and returning Members of Congress to hire diverse staff—especially Members who represent diverse districts. In the op-ed, she writes “From police killings of Black Americans to a COVID-19 pandemic that has disproportionately claimed the jobs and lives of Black and Brown people, the need for policymakers and staff who understand structural inequality, racism and anti-Blackness is as clear as it has ever been.”
Joint Center Senior Fellow, Diversity and Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson joined NPR’s Marketplace to discuss our efforts to increase congressional staff diversity.
“These staffers, as you know, are so important because they are the ones who are really doing the day-to-day tasks, giving talking points, giving notes, informing their member on various issues that might arise. Of course members of Congress make the final say, but these staffers really have a lot of influence in enacting legislation,” said LaShonda in the interview.
The New York Times exclusively covered the Joint Center's 2020 report Racial Diversity Among Top Staff in Senate Personal Offices.
This report provides evidence regarding the lack of racial diversity among U.S. Senate personal office top staff positions. This report defines personal office top staff as all chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors in the Washington, DC personal offices of U.S. Senators.