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Jax Daily Record Friday, Aug. 25, 201707:00 AM EST

City employee diversity comes under scrutiny

Finance Committee members question if enough is being done to hire minorites, women.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

The majority of city employees are white and male, according to an annual report from the Employee Services Department.

City Director of Employee Services Diane Moser presented the annual equal opportunity / equal access recruiting report Thursday to the City Council Finance Committee during a budget review hearing.

Moser’s 30-minute allotment for the department’s $6.8 million proposed budget turned into a 1 ½-hour defense of its recruiting efforts.

The report said that of the city’s 9,200 employees, 63 percent are Caucasian and 66 percent are male.

African-Americans represent less than one-third of employees, while Asian, Hispanic, Latino and other minorities combine for 7.3 percent of the workforce.

White employees make up more than half of the staff in at least 20 city departments, with six departments consisting of 80 percent non-minority employees.

“To me, that would jump out if I were a director,” said council member Reginald Brown.

Moser prefaced those statistics by pointing to the racial makeup of the city.

“We’re close to matching our employable population,” Moser said. “In some cases, we do better.”

According to the report, 68.8 percent of Jacksonville residents identify as Caucasian and 19.8 percent as African-American.

Women represent 34 percent of the city workforce, something Moser said was partly because males were “overrepresented” in public safety roles.

Ten percent of Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department employees and 27 percent of Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office workers are women.

“What we’re doing is not working,” Brown said. “Are we looking at innovative ways to recruit females?”

Moser said the police and fire departments take a more direct role in the hiring process versus other city departments, and that recruiting efforts at local gyms, for example, “are promising.”

She said that recruitment in gyms was appropriate since public safety positions demand a higher level of physical stamina.

The balance of men and women in city departments vary from even to lopsided.

For example, the Office of Ethics is staffed by females while women comprise 38 percent of the Finance and Administration staff.

Diversity isn’t the only city challenge.

Moser said of the 45 open positions on the city’s website, many require applicants to have specific certifications, like a CDL license to drive larger vehicles.

Other roles demand more professional experience or advanced degrees.  

“Some of our positions require a really specific skill set, which takes longer to fill,” Moser said.

Both Finance Chair Garrett Dennis and Brown asked about efforts to recruit at historically black institutions, like Edward Waters College and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee.

Dennis and Brown are FAMU alumni.

“Where are the black engineers?” Brown said.

City Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa responded by saying that the city will “happily hire any qualified minority or female engineers who apply.”

City employee turnover is about 9 percent in 2017, less than the national rate, which the Society for Human Resource Management says was 19 percent in 2016.

Council member Matt Schellenberg said the city is in competition with other governments and businesses for qualified employees, and can’t always match the salaries being offered.  

Mousa told the committee there’s flexibility in keeping employees happy, including adjusting pay schedules and salaries.

The discussion about diversity and employment stems from a memo Dennis sent to city department heads and independent agencies regarding the Equal Opportunity / Equal Access program, outlined in the ordinance code.

The July 20 memo asks department heads requesting money for new employees to present a “progress report” on how they’re implementing equal opportunity recruiting.

“Let me be clear, this is not a quota,” Dennis said. “This is about casting a broader net.”

Dennis said that no matter the race or gender, the city should always focus on bringing in the most qualified person.

He said being serious about diversity “comes from the top.”

In January 2016,  Mayor Lenny Curry signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression during the hiring process.

“It’s one thing to have words on paper,” Dennis said. “What directives besides the executive order from the mayor that’s casting a wider net?”


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