Little diversity on Baker panel
Demographics of economic council criticized, but aides see inclusion throughout administration
The economic development council appointed by Governor Charlie Baker is a little-known group that convened this week to create a blueprint for Massachusetts, a state with a growing population of Latinos and Asians and rising stars among minorities and women in the business world.
But Baker’s 59-member council is more than 85 percent white and more than 80 percent male, according to a Globe review. The lopsided demographics have prompted criticism from those who say that Baker’s personnel decisions have not lived up to his inclusive message on the campaign trail last year.
“Are you shocked?” said Horace Small, executive director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. “No one’s really calling this guy out for what he’s really about.”
Baker aides, in response, pointed to figures showing his administration as a whole is more diverse than that of his predecessor, Democrat Deval Patrick.
But critics such as US Representative Katherine Clark, a Melrose Democrat, said that more than 70 percent of the people entering the workforce are women or people of color, according to research by the Bentley University Center for Women and Business. She said the architects of Baker’s economic development strategy should more closely reflect that trend.
“I think the council is a great idea and has many great leaders on it, but this is a missed opportunity to use government’s role to lead by example,” Clark said. “If we’re going to build an economy that’s going to work for everyone, everyone’s got to be at the table.”
Several members of the council said privately that they had noticed the lack of diversity during this week’s council meeting.
Baker ran last year as an inclusive Republican, frequently campaigning in heavily minority urban neighborhoods where few, if any, Republican candidates had spent as much time. And, after his loss to Patrick in the 2010 gubernatorial race, where exit polls showed Baker losing female voters by 24 percentage points, Baker worked hard last year to present a softer image.
At a rally before the state GOP convention last year, Baker said, “You need a state government, and we need a state government, that reflects the greatness of the people of this state.”
In a Globe interview after the election, he said, “I would hope that one of the lessons that some of the Republicans nationally would take from this race is that it’s a good idea to chase 100 percent of the vote and to make the case in as many forums and as many places as they possibly can.”
The Baker administration did not dispute the findings of the Globe review of the economic development council. But aides said the executive branch overall and at its management level has grown more diverse under Baker than under Patrick, the state’s first African-American governor.
Asked to provide evidence, Baker aides provided figures showing that the total executive-branch workforce in August of this year was 51.0 percent female and 27.5 percent minority, compared with 50.9 percent female and 26.4 percent minority during Patrick’s final month in office.
Among managers as of August, according to Baker aides, 56.9 percent were female and 17.8 percent minority, while the rates were 56.2 percent and 17.2 percent, respectively, at the end of Patrick’s tenure.
“The administration is achieving its mission for state government to reflect the diversity of Massachusetts with an executive branch that is more diverse than the previous administration, both in terms of management level and total workforce,” Baker spokeswoman Lizzy Guyton said in an e-mail. “Additionally, this temporary commission will hold meetings across the state to hear concerns and ideas from all of Massachusetts before it disbands.”
According to US Census Bureau estimates, non-Hispanic whites account for 75 percent of the state’s population, and women for 52 percent.
The economic development panel is a bipartisan group of officials from the public and private sectors, including Democratic state Senator Eileen Donoghue of Lowell; Democratic state Representative Joseph Wagner of Chicopee; Salvatore Lupoli of Sal’s Pizza; and Daniel Kenary, chief executive of Harpoon Brewery.
Nearly 70 percent of the council hails from the eastern part of the state, according to the Globe analysis, while 25 of its members have contributed to either Baker’s or Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito’s campaign accounts.
State law requires the governor to appoint the council. It also requires the administration to file an economic development proposal within the first year of his term.
Appointments to such councils are often largely ceremonial, and the councils help politicians assuage supporters or constituency groups.
A top Democrat has also faced recent criticism of Beacon Hill’s efforts toward diversity. This year, state Representative Russell Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat who chairs the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, criticized Speaker Robert DeLeo for not tapping more members of color for House leadership positions.
Holmes said the caucus meets quarterly with Baker, and has raised other concerns as well. Recently, he said, constituents have voiced worries about less diversity on the MBTA and Massachusetts Convention Center Authority boards.
“The response from the neighborhood has been: ‘Does this governor only have white friends, does he only know white folks?’ ” Holmes said.
“This will be a major problem for us when we meet with him next week,” he added.
Clark said Baker’s appointments had cost him a chance to leverage his position to encourage employers to diversify their workforces.
“I just think this was a missed opportunity to really showcase what we have with incredibly talented people who could've brought diversity into the discussion,” she said.