The sting of unemployment affects African Americans more than any other racial group reports the US Census Bureau. It’s an issue that has gone unresolved for decades, outlasting solutions like affirmative action, job corps training and other government programs implemented to provide minorities with steady work opportunities.
And while job opportunities aren’t as scarce as they have been in the past, finding them is no easy task. Adding insult to injury, there are numerous barriers preventing Blacks and other minorities from advancement in their respective careers.
Even in California, where opportunities for work outweigh those in other places, there are numerous disparities hampering the success of Black professionals compared to their White counterparts. In fact, according to CalHR, the state’s human resources department, employment and advancement opportunities for women and minorities do not seem to be improving in state government employment.
From 2012 through 2014, the overall percentage of African Americans in Career Executive Assignment (CEA) positions in state agencies has declined. CEAs represent the highest levels of civil service employment and are responsible for developing and implementing policy.
In 2012, there were 1,248 CEA positions: 7.2 percent were held by African Americans; 12 percent were Hispanic and 8.25 percent were Asian. When gender was thrown into the mix, the rate of opportunity shrinks even further for Black women with high-ranking state jobs. Although 52 percent of all CEA’s in California are female, only 4.5 percent were African American, 6.6 percent were Hispanic, and a mere 3.7 percent were Asian.
In 2013, the statistics showed a slight, but measurable decline in the number of women and minorities employed by the state. In 2014, there was a further decline. Among the 1,274 CEA’s on staff that year, only 6.2 percent were African American; 12.7 percent were Hispanic and 8.3 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, reports show that Black CEAs experienced a 7.5 percent lower wage range than the average CEA.
Despite all of that, 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 (BOE), posted favorable numbers for African Americans and women—10 percent of the employees at the BOE (445) were African Americans; 22 percent (986) were Latino and 26 percent (1,185) 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 the state’s population.
Overall, since the appointment of Jerome Horton in 2009, who was the first African American elected to the Board of Equalization (BOE) 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 BOE are women or persons of color. Equally significant, the executive directors at the BOE and Franchise Tax Board, Cynthia Bridges and Selvi Stanislaus, are women of color.
However, employment of women and minorities within the BOE does not fare well historically. Out of the 187 highest-ranking CEA positions, only nine were African Americans, or 4.8 percent.
In recent months, Horton has stressed the need for additional outreach 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.
“We must continue to take affirmative steps to provide the underrepresented community members equal opportunity at the Board of Equalization,” he said during an interview, adding that the same approach must be taken on a state-wide basis.
“Individuals of all races and ethnicities should have an equal opportunity to qualify for the [more than] 200 job categories with the state, covering every profession from lawyers and accountants, to analysts and real estate appraisers.”
For more information about employment opportunities with the State of California, visit calhr.com.