Not all state agencies are created equal

by L. Ragin

When it comes to equal opportunity for women and people of color, one would think that in a state as liberal as California, they would be well represented in the highest levels of civil service employment, but not so.

According to CalHR, the state’s human resources department, employment and advancement opportunities for women and minorities do not seem to be getting any better. From 2012 through 2014, the overall percentage of females and African Americans in the coveted Career Executive Assignment (CEA) positions, among the highest paid exempt assignments, has declined.

When it comes to equal opportunity for women and people of color, one would think that in a state as liberal as California, they would be well represented in the highest levels of civil service employment, but not so. 

In 2012, among the 1,248 CEA classifications, 90 or 7.2 percent of the CEAs were African American; 150 or 12 percent were Hispanic and 103 or 8.25 percent were Asian. Among those, 626 or 52 percent of the total were women, 56 or 4.5 percent were African American women, 82 or 6.6 percent were Hispanic women, and 46 or 3.7 percent were Asian women.

In 2013, the statistics showed a slight but measurable decline in the number of women and minorities employed by the state of California. In 2014, there was a further decline in the number of women and minorities employed by California. Of 1,274 CEAs, 80 or 6.2 percent were African American, 161 or 12.7 percent were Hispanic and 106 or 8.3 percent were Asian. Among those, 644 or 50.5 percent were female; and among those, 51 or 4.0 percent were African American, 90 or 7.0 percent were Hispanic and 55 or 4.3 percent were Asian.

Other significant indicators throughout the statewide civil service spectrum reveal that during the period 2009 to 2013, the number of African Americans declined by 8.1 percent and Hispanics by 3.4 percent. Similarly, while African Americans are very well represented relative to the population, they experience a 7.5 percent lower wage range than average, while Hispanics are both under-represented and paid below average.

California Board of Equalization Chair Jerome Horton
California Board of Equalization Chair Jerome Horton

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, posted favorable numbers for African Americans and women. Ten percent of the employees at the Board of Equalization (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 our state’s population. Latinos represent 35.3 percent of the overall labor force and Asians represent 13.9 percent.

Overall, since the appointment of Jerome Horton in 2009, the first African American to be elected to the Board of Equalization 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 Board of Equalization are women or persons of color. Equally significant, the executive directors at the BOE and the Franchise Tax Board (FTB), Cynthia Bridges and Selvi Stanislaus, are women of color.

However, the Board of Equalization does not fare well historically for women and minorities in the coveted CEA classification. Out of the 187 highest-ranking Career Executive Assignment positions, only nine were African Americans, or 4.8 percent, 16 or 8.6 percent were Latino, and 15 or 8 percent were Asian.

“Individuals of all races and ethnicity should have an equal opportunity to qualify for the over 200 job categories with the state, covering every profession from lawyers and accountants to analysts and real estate appraisers,” said Horton, “and we must continue to take affirmative steps to provide the under-represented community members equal opportunity at the Board of Equalization.”

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, posted favorable numbers for African Americans and women.

Horton also cited the need for additional outreach in non-traditional minority media outlets and at colleges with significant minority enrollment and for 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.

Sen. Holly Mitchell
Sen. Holly Mitchell

“Stepping into an executive position can and should begin an upward climb professionally,” said Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, chair of the California Senate Select Committee on Women and Inequality. “But if it comes without equal pay, without equal treatment or lacking opportunities for mentorship with other women, the stricter scrutiny to which we know female staffs are disproportionately subjected can make a promotion feel like a punishment.”

Alice Huffman, president of the California-Hawaii State NAACP, said: “Even though there have been cracks in the glass ceiling, the challenge is keeping women from slipping down the glass slope. I think it is important that women and minorities understand that there are inequalities at every level and things don’t change just because a few have arrived near the top.”

“We commend the women at the Board of Equalization and Franchise Board, Ms. Bridges and Ms. Stanislaus, for taking affirmative steps to provide women equal opportunities to advance to the highest ranks of government,” said Hilda Kennedy, president-elect of California National Association of Women Business Owners – California.

For more information about employment opportunities with the State of California, visit calhr.ca.gov.

About the Board of Equalization

The five-member Board of Equalization (BOE) is a publicly elected tax board. The BOE administers $60 billion annually in taxes and fees, supporting state and local government services. It hears business tax appeals, acts as the appellate body for franchise and personal income tax appeals, and serves a significant role in the assessment and administration of property taxes. The BOE employs over 4,000 agency employees and maintains offices throughout the state of California, in New York, Texas and Illinois. For more information on other taxes and fees in California, visit the California Tax Service Center.

L. Ragin can be reached at leeragin@bpcmediaworks.com