By Lee Ragin, Jr.
When it comes to equal opportunity for women and people of color, one would think that in a state as liberal as California, they would be well represented in the highest levels of civil service employment, but not so.
According to CalHR, the state’s human resources department, employment and advancement opportunities for women and minorities does not seem to be getting any better. From 2012 through 2014, the overall percentage of females and African Americans in the coveted Career Executive Assignment (CEA) positions, among the highest paid exempt assignments, has declined.
In 2012, among the 1,248 CEA classifications, 90 or 7.2 percent of the CEA’s were African American; 150 or 12 percent were Hispanic and 103 or 8.25 percent were Asians. Among those, 626 or 52 percent of the total were females, 56 or 4.5 percent were African American females, 82 or 6.6 percent were Hispanic females, and 46 or 3.7 percent were Asian females.
In 2013, the statistics showed a slight, but measurable decline in the number of women and minorities employed by the state of California. In 2014, there was a further decline in the number of women and minorities employed by California; with 1,274 CEA’s and 80 or 6.2 percent were African American; 161 or 12.7 percent were Hispanic and 106 or 8.3 percent were Asian.
Among those, 644 or 50.5 percent were female and among those, 51 or 4.0 percent were African American, 90 or 7.0 percent were Hispanic and 55 or 4.3 percent were Asian.
Other significant indicators throughout the statewide civil service spectrum reveal that during the period 2009 to 2013, there were 8.1 percent fewer African Americans and 3.4 percent fewer Hispanics.
Similarly, while the representation of African Americans relative to the population is very well represented, they experience a 7.5 percent lower wage range than average, while Hispanics are both under-represented and paid below average.
In the most recent State Employee Census, compiled by CalHR and published in January 2015, one of the state’s largest agencies, the Board of Equalization, posted favorable numbers for African Americans and women. 10 percent of the employees at the Board of Equalization (445) were African Americans; 22 percent (986) were Latino and 26 percent (1185) were Asian.
This compares with an African American representation of 10.5 percent overall in state civil service; 5.6 percent in California’s overall labor force and 6 percent of our state’s population. Latinos represent 35.3 percent of the overall labor force and Asians represent 13.9 percent.
Overall, since the appointment of Jerome Horton in 2009, the first African American to be elected to the Board of Equalization, since its inception in 1879, and with three of the five Board Members being women; things have improved for women and minorities. As of September, 2015, 32 percent of the CEAs employed with the Board of Equalization are women or persons of color.
Equally significant, the Executive Directors, at the BOE and FTB, Cynthia Bridges and Selvi Stanislaus, are women of color.
However, the Board of Equalization does not fare well historically for women and minorities in the coveted CEA classification. Out of the 187 highest-ranking Career Executive Assignment positions, only nine were African Americans, or 4.8 percent, 16 or 8.6 percent were Latino, and 15 or 8 percent were Asian.
“Individuals of all races and ethnicity should have an equal opportunity to qualify for the over 200 job categories with the state, covering every profession from lawyers and accountants, to analysts and real estate appraisers,” said Horton, “and we must continue to take affirmative steps to provide the under-represented community members equal opportunity at the Board of Equalization.”
Horton also cited the need for additional outreach in non- traditional minority media outlets, at colleges with significant minority enrollment, and the establishment of internship programs at the entry level and mentorship programs at the executive level, to give women and minorities an opportunity to succeed.
“Stepping into an executive position can and should begin an upward climb professionally”, said Senator Holly J. Mitchell, Chair of the California Senate Select Committee on Women and Inequality. “But if it comes without equal pay, without equal treatment or lacking opportunities for mentorship with other women, the stricter scrutiny to which we know female staffs are disproportionately subjected can make a promotion feel like a punishment.”
Alice Huffman, president, California-Hawaii State NAACP said. “Even though there have been cracks in the glass ceiling, the challenge is keeping women from slipping down the glass slope.”
“We commend the women at the Board of Equalization and Franchise Board for taking affirmative steps to provide women equal opportunities to advance to the highest ranks of Government,” said Hilda Kennedy, president-elect of California National Association of Women Business Owners – California.
The five-member Board of Equalization (BOE) is a publicly elected tax board, administering $60 billion annually in taxes and fees and supporting state and local government services. The board hears business tax appeals, acts as the appellate body for franchise and personal income tax appeals. The board employs over 4,000 agency employees.