Who are the people leading the movement for racial equity in government? We have interviewed practitioners across the country who are working to advance more racially equitable governance in their own communities. Some are working from the inside to change institutional practice. Others are organizing communities on the outside to apply political pressure and keep government accountable. What are their motivations and their challenges? What accomplishments are they proud of? This Racial Equity Leadership Profile series seeks to capture and share these stories from the frontlines of the movement for racial equity in government.
This installment features The City of Albuquerque’s Human Resources Director, Mary Scott
Q: What’s the most important equity issue that your jurisdiction is facing right now?
We’re looking to diversify our workforce. We ran a workforce diversity report last year, and identified by job title the ethnicity and gender of the folks in those positions. We identified and ran it by salary tier. We know that disproportionately, women and people of color are in the lower-level jobs.
However, according to our recent workforce diversity analysis, we’ve had some improvement regarding promotion and hiring people of color. We’ve had 16 people go through the supervisory and development program, which involves extensive pre-management training experience. It will let you qualify for positions with the city that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.
Q: Are there are any policies that your department is implementing to try and address inequities?
We banned the box on employment applications. We are looking at all our job descriptions and we’ve added an assessment tool called Work Keys that people can fill out if they are lacking formal education. This is a tool that applicants can use as a way to identify that they’re qualified even without formal education.
Additionally, we have some programs designed to identify pools of untapped potential. For instance, we have a pre-management development program. It gives an individual 2 years of supervisory experience at the end of the program. It’s like being in college – they do things like toastmasters, they take a class at the community college.
Q: Did you experience much opposition to implementing ‘ban the box? ‘
I did get some pushback realized that some departmental managers were using it to screen people out of the hiring pool. The administration said “we need a legal opinion,” but then I cleared it with the legal department. There was a little pushback from the directors, “we need more information,” etcetera. Our state legislature, just this session that ended in February passed a state law to ban the box. So I said, “Look! We were ahead of the curve!”
Q: What are the biggest obstacles when it comes to attempting to implement innovative policies?
Fortunately for us we got a new mayor who is very young, progressive and supportive. There are not a whole lot of problems. We’re still kind of scattered and siloed. The Office of Equity and Inclusion is trying to take the lead. Each department has their own initiatives. To me it’s a problem because everything is scattered. Our weakness is communication. We have 6500 employees and they’re spread out over the city.
Q: How do you conceptualize ‘merit’ when it comes to making hiring decisions?
When we think of merit, we think of ‘qualifications’ – but there are other things go into it. I don’t think that’s the only thing you can look at. That’s the whole purpose of doing a job interview. What have their life experiences been? What do they aspire to be? I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that merit is only based on work experience or schooling.