For a city that boasts being one of the most diverse in the country, Sacramento has struggled making its workforce mirror that. From city hall to the fire department, the city’s governmental workforce is mostly white and overwhelmingly male, according to a 2019 audit.
But that could change. As part of an ongoing effort to hire more people of color, the city is developing a Workforce Equity plan that will look at ways to build a more diverse workforce pipeline and offer more training opportunities for government jobs, specifically for women and people of color.
“I think the overall vision is to get the plan in front of city leadership across the city, and to build their understanding around equity and racial equity and how it can be applied to hiring and planning,” said Aimee Barnes, the city’s diversity and equity manager who is spearheading the effort.
Barnes and 11 other representatives from different city departments are in charge of shaping the equity plan going forward. While not completely reflective of the city’s demographics, Barnes said that the group working on the equity plan was fairly diverse, but that it could be better.
“We tried to balance not only racial but also gender diversity as well,” Barnes said. “I think there’s definitely room for improvement, but overall through hierarchy and position, as well as race and ethnicity and gender, we did pretty good.”
Barnes said that the document currently has no concrete deadlines or plans and is just the initial proposal. Still, she hopes that in five years, the city’s workforce could better reflect the city’s demographics.
“Understanding what may be the barrier to applying for a job with the city, and then moving on to retention of diverse talent, so it’s really a four-to-five-year strategy because this can’t happen overnight,” she said.
According to a recent audit of the city’s 4,903 full- and part-time employees, the city’s workforce is disproportionately white and male. More specifically, 53% of employees are white, 19% are identified as Hispanic, 10% are Black, 9% are Asian. By contrast, Sacramento’s population is 47% white, 29% Hispanic, 19% Asian and 13% African American, according to census data.
In particular, the city’s fire department was one of the more predominantly white and male organizations, at almost 72% white, 14% Hispanic, 5% Asian and just 3% African American. But department spokesperson Captain Keith Wadesaid they’ve already started working on diversity efforts with a number of outreach programs to high school and college students to interest them in careers in firefighting.
“One of the biggest barriers is letting them know that firefighting is an option for them,” Wade said. “So through the outreach and through the high school system, we’re letting them know that they are quite capable of becoming a part of this agency and that fighting fires can be a career option for them.”
He added that underserved and diverse neighborhoods like Meadowview or North Sacramento tend to have more fire activity than less diverse neighborhoods like East Sacramento. He said this can help with recruitment.
“I can tell you that those are busier fire houses and stations in those types of communities than East Sacramento, and those are the stations that are having the most interaction with the community,” Wade added.
The city has had its battles with diversity in its workforce before, including a complaint emailed to city manager Howard Chan last year by the African American Employee Leadership Council against the city’s Human Resources department.
The group of 12 city representatives will be presenting their Workforce Equity plan to the Law and Legislative committee Tuesday, and they hope to have city council sign off and give further direction before the end of the year.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.