Boston Mayor Martin Walsh speaks forcefully about the need to build a diverse municipal workforce, which resonates in a city in which people of color constitute 53 percent of the population. But during his first six months in office, Walsh has talked a better game than he has played.
The administration’s 20 highest-paid new hires — cabinet chiefs and department heads among them — include 15 men and 13 white employees, according to a recent analysis by Globe reporter Andrew Ryan. Of the 147 full-time positions filled by the Walsh administration, 59 percent have gone to white candidates and 66 percent are men. Walsh was reluctant to provide employment figures to the Globe, which suggests that he is not especially impressed by his own efforts. Nor should he be.
Like any chief executive in an urban market — in politics or business — Walsh knows that a diverse workforce gives him a competitive edge. Some Bostonians perceive diversity as an intrinsically attractive element of urban life. Others place more importance on the economic value of bringing members of underrepresented groups into the municipal workforce, which is one of largest employers in the city. And some city agencies, such as the police, rely heavily on a diverse workforce for operational efficiency, especially in the areas of community relations and intelligence. Diversity matters in Boston at many levels.
Last month, administration officials claimed that minorities accounted for 68 percent of the new hires since Walsh took office. It was misleading. The Globe analysis revealed that many of those minorities were in part-time positions, internships, and youth jobs with an average salary of $13,000. Padding the statistics reflects badly on the administration and reinforces the perception that Walsh may be filling jobs primarily with political supporters and cronies.
Minority recruitment efforts can be challenging for urban leaders. Civil Service exams and veteran preference policies have been barriers to minorities seeking public safety jobs. There are only 11 minorities, for example, in the current class of 56 police recruits. And a brand-new administration hasn’t yet had a chance to groom its own candidates for jobs. Walsh isn’t responsible for these challenges. But he isn’t going to overcome them by overcounting minorities to make his administration look good.