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Diversity lags in full-time city hires under Walsh

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Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/File

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh at City Hall.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh promised a new era of diversity at City Hall, but in his first five months he has hired predominantly men and filled most full-time jobs with white employees in a city in which people of color are a majority.

About 59 percent of full-time hires have been white, and 66 percent are men, according to data provided by the city and analyzed by the Globe. In an interview, Walsh took issue with the Globe’s findings.

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“It’s easy to cut it up like this and make it look like I hired 59 percent white people,” Walsh said. “The accurate number is we didn’t.”

The Globe focused its analysis on people hired for 147 full-time jobs since Jan. 6. The new administration provided a list of 248 new hires. That included 101 part-time positions, internships, and youth jobs, which are held overwhelmingly by people of color.

The mayor said “some of those part-time jobs could turn into full-time jobs,” but he acknowledged that building a diverse administration has been more difficult than he anticipated.

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“We still have a lot of work to do; we’re not there yet,” Walsh said. “We have to do some more work with women, obviously. But again, we’re five months into this thing.”

Walsh won office with the support of black and Latino voters and promised to build an administration that reflects Boston’s population. Walsh’s 11-member Cabinet is overwhelmingly male and predominantly white, but there are prominent exceptions, including Felix G. Arroyo, chief of human services, and John F. Barros, chief of economic development.

Walsh’s chief of staff, Daniel Arrigg Koh, said the administration is “aware of the challenges we face” and that building a diverse staff requires expanding the professional networks the administration taps for potential staff members.

“This is something that is top of mind for all of us; it’s something we’re pushing every day,” said Koh, who is of Korean and Lebanese descent. “As a person of color, it’s something that is deeply personal to me and also deeply personal to the mayor.”

Last week, the Walsh administration gave the Globe a list of hires that provided pay, gender, and ethnicity information for each position, although with names omitted.

Of those 248 new full- and part-time employees on Walsh’s list, 64 percent are men and 58 percent are people of color. That list includes the 101 part-time positions, interns, and youth workers; they are 83 percent black, Latino, or Asian and make an annual average wage of $13,000.

The part-time and youth hires included 50 positions funded by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which has a separate payroll from the City of Boston. Those 50 people were all black and Latino, and almost all were paid minimum wage as part of a youth employment program focused on entry-level work in private companies, such as restaurant kitchens, according to a BRA spokesman.

The release of detailed hiring figures followed the Walsh administration’s rejection of an earlier public records request from the Globe asking for data gathered by the city on gender and ethnic group for all the city’s employees. The decision broke with the practice of the previous administration. The Globe has appealed to the supervisor of public records in the secretary of state’s office.

After rejecting the Globe’s record request, Walsh said in April that Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s administration relied largely on visual observations by payroll officials to determine gender and ethnicity. Walsh questioned the data’s accuracy and said it was “unfair and discriminatory,” because employees did not have the opportunity to identify their gender and ethnicity.

Vivian Leonard, Boston’s longtime director of human resources, gave a different account in an interview last week. Leonard said it was “very, very rare” that visual observations were used to determine an employee’s gender or ethnicity.

Newly hired employees fill out forms, Leonard said, that ask them to indicate their gender and to identify their race or ethnicity in one of five categories set by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Almost all new workers check a box, Leonard said, and the employment commission recommends visual observations for those who do not.

The city’s gender and ethnic data are “very, very” accurate, Leonard said.

The administration’s 20 highest-paid new hires — Cabinet chiefs, department heads, and special assistants to the mayor — include 15 men and 13 white employees.

On average, women hired to full-time jobs in the Walsh administration are paid nearly as much as men.

But the average salary for new full-time white workers is 13 percent higher, an almost $6,400 difference, than that of full-time black, Latino, or Asian employees.

In an interview, Walsh said it is unfair to average salaries of city employees who hold different positions.

Michael A. Curry, president of the NAACP’s Boston chapter, said he is encouraged by diversity among youth workers and in entry-level jobs, but said there needs to be a serious commitment to identifying talent to serve in every level of the administration.

“I have no doubt that Mayor Walsh generally wants to have a diverse city government,” said Curry, who has met with Walsh and his staff about recruiting more people of color. “But right now, that’s taken a back seat to the urgency of filling positions.”

Darnell L. Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts and a member of the mayor’s transition team, said Walsh needs more time to meet his “aggressive diversity goals” and build an administration reflecting the city.

“While I would want to see more women and minorities in higher-level positions, I think the mayor needs to be applauded for what he has achieved to date,” Williams said. “But we also are going to work with him. . . . We need to do more to bring more candidates of color to his attention, so he can fulfill that campaign pledge.”

The city has a workforce of roughly 17,000, but a new mayor’s ability to fill jobs is limited. More than 90 percent of city workers belong to unions, which protect employees’ jobs during a change in administrations.

That leaves about 500 nonunion positions over which the mayor can exert influence.

Although Menino’s administration had provided data on the composition of the entire city workforce, information was not available on the profile of staff members hired directly by Menino. That made it difficult to compare the hiring records of Menino and Walsh.

On the fifth floor of City Hall, home to the mayor’s expansive quarters, a warren of offices and cubicles sits within shouting distance of Walsh. Thirty-three people work in the fifth-floor’s inner sanctum, including three Cabinet chiefs, policy specialists, advance staff, receptionists, and a police security team. Some are Menino holdovers, but the majority were handpicked by Walsh.

According to payroll records, 22 of the 33 employees in the mayor’s immediate fifth-floor orbit are white, and 20 are men. The most prominent woman is the chief of policy, Joyce Linehan, who is one of the mayor’s closest aides. But seven of the 10 top-paid positions are held by men.

Asked in the interview whether women held powerful posts in his office, Walsh pointed to his scheduler, Pamela Carver, a longtime aide who came with him from the State House, where Walsh was a state representative for 16 years.

“She probably has more power than anybody in the place,” Walsh said.

The mayor also mentioned the two receptionists immediately outside his office, describing them as “certainly a lot more than receptionists.” One of them, Yvonne Ortiz, handles any document the mayor needs to sign, Walsh said.

Walsh also noted the important role played by Linehan and mayoral press secretary Kate Norton. Communications director Lisa Mansdorf Pollack resigned after four months in her post.

“The women in my office certainly have more influence and [are] more dependable than the men around me,” Walsh said. “When you talk about inner circle, the Cabinet is one inner circle, and then I have other people that I depend upon every single day to keep me moving.”

Samantha Washburn-
Baronie, executive director of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, said in a statement that Walsh has already “proven his commitment to advancing women in the workplace not only in his administration but in the city of Boston.”

“It takes time to get to 50-50 when hiring qualified candidates in any administration,” Washburn-Baronie said.

More coverage:

Walsh withdraws proposal to waive residency rule for top city officials

5/31: Walsh’s top aide on schools steps down

5/24: Harmon | Mayor Walsh’s erratic efforts for a diverse workforce

5/24: Walsh’s communications director resigns

4/24: Walsh withholds diversity records

2/21: Hires haven’t reflected city’s diversity

2/11: Walsh taps John Barros as economic point man

1/30: Walsh shakes up Cabinet structure

1/7: Six cabinet appointments announced

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.
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