A Coalition Built to Win

DNC Increases Staff Diversity, Creates Paid Internships, Contracts with Minority-Owned Consultants to Win Elections

Representation matters. As Democrats, we value inclusion not simply because a diverse coalition is a strong coalition, but because we know that in order to expand opportunities for all Americans, all Americans must have a seat at the table. The DNC is leading by example and building a team that knows what it takes to win in every community.

Over the last year, we have redefined our mission and gotten to work to elect Democrats up and down the ballot from the school board to the Oval Office. Our strategy is working. Democrats flipped 40 legislative seats from red to blue, we won 2017’s marquee gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, and we scored an upset victory in the U.S. Senate race in beet-red Alabama.

The true key to our success? Investments in the women and people of color who form the backbone of our party. Democrats won because our party accurately reflected the communities that we hoped to represent.

Led by Chairman Tom Perez, the new DNC’s leadership dove headfirst into making our headquarters a model for workplace diversity. From interns to staffers to DNC leadership, we’ve assembled a new team over the past year that truly reflects America’s hardworking families.

This report is a transparent examination of the DNC’s efforts to build a party that truly reflects every single Democrat. In presenting it, we aim to both hold ourselves accountable and to provide a roadmap for our partners within the progressive ecosystem who work to elect Democrats at every level in all fifty states.

Leadership

Elected by the DNC’s 447 members, DNC officers are our organization’s highest-ranking officials.

  • Last year’s election brought along an 80% increase in DNC officers of color.
  • We now have a more diverse leadership pool than at any point in our party’s history.
  • We’ve more than doubled the number of African-American officers and increased the number of Latino officers.

Our senior leadership, which includes all department heads, also saw impressive gains.

  • We’ve seen a 67% increase in leaders of color and a 60% increase in women leaders.
  • Women now make up 70% of all department heads at the DNC.

Last month, we invited prominent Black women leaders to come to our headquarters for a collaborative strategy session on our 2018 African American outreach and engagement efforts. This is part of our ongoing leadership strategy to be more inclusive and connected to community leaders and stakeholders.

Staff

A major part of the new leadership’s rebuilding process included increasing staffing levels from historic lows following the 2016 cycle in order to ramp up the organizing and mobilizing efforts that led to the past year’s victories. As Chairman Perez often notes, personnel is policy and reflects an organization’s priorities. The urgent need to staff up at the DNC provided an immediate opportunity to put our commitment into action. Under the new leadership, the DNC has increased:

  • African-American staff by 36% (from 22 to 30)
  • Asian-American/Pacific Islander staff by 30% (from 10 to 13)
  • Latino staff by 340% (from 5 to 22)
  • and LGBTQ staff by 36% (from 14 to 19)
  • Overall, 44% of DNC staffers are people of color. 51% of DNC staff are women.

The new leadership also changed the way DNC staff works together to better engage with our base constituencies. All DNC employees undergo mandatory diversity training on inclusion and respect with a course that hones in on micro-inequities, stereotypes and bias. Following a top to bottom evaluation of the entire organization upon taking office, the DNC created a brand new Political & Organizing Department, which now includes a fully integrated community engagement team complete with constituency specific staff who lead interdepartmental working groups that focus on organizing within these communities.

Instituting Paid Internships

We know that internships serve as the gateway into a career in politics. But the opportunity costs of unpaid internships are too burdensome for too many young people who are otherwise qualified; and we know that this disproportionately affects young people of color, and other historically marginalized communities.

Chairman Perez promised to end unpaid internships, and for the first time in DNC history, the spring 2018 class of interns received a stipend. We are excited by the increased diversity: prior to the new policy, only 18% of the intern class were people of color; and now, 42% of our spring cohort was people of color.

Reducing Contracts, Maintaining Diversity

Like the staffing policy, the contracting and procurement process should create opportunities and be accessible and transparent, and our vendors should reflect the diversity of our country. Chairman Perez followed through on his campaign commitments related to supplier diversity. All contracts and contractors will be reviewed before renewal; there is no longer automatic renewal in practice or policy. The DNC has also eliminated many of the pre-existing contracts. We intentionally brought many services and talent in house to cut expenses as part of our rebuilding effort.

As the Chief Operating Officer, Laura Chambers manages all diversity initiatives for the organization. She has begun a new contract approval process that tracks all vendors receiving contracts of at least $5,000 in much greater detail — by gender, racial, and ethnic diversity. Now outside consulting contracts only make up about 2% of the DNC’s operating budget, with 29% of that money spent on contracts going to women and minority-owned businesses.

We have also put out a national call for diverse vendors to submit their qualifications, and welcome more. We intend to share this database of vendors so it is a resource to state parties and our partners in the democratic ecosystem. In April, the DNC hosted the first-ever Diverse Vendors Luncheon for over 60 businesses. The meeting featured a facilitated discussion by Laura Chambers and Jaime Harrison, DNC Associate Chair, and provided an opportunity to learn from three experienced panelists, as Minority and Women Business Enterprises, who have conducted business with the DNC and other democratic organizations.

The best example of the benefits of our new investment strategy is in Doug Jones’s upset victory in the Alabama Senate special election. The DNC invested nearly $1 million in the Jones race, focusing our efforts on organizing in the African American community. We contracted African American community leaders to run mobilization programs in the African American and faith communities. We invested in these community leaders, empowering and supporting them to run programs in their communities. And thanks in large part to these efforts and other partner-led programs, 98% of African American women voters in Alabama cast their votes for Doug Jones. And that’s why we now have a Democratic senator representing the state for the first time in over two decades.

“The DNC knew that the key to victory in Alabama wasn’t to swoop in with expensive television ads crafted by consultants with no ties to the state but to invest in existing relationships within the community. Working together, with a laser focused effort on turning out our party’s most loyal voting block, African American voters, we were able to organize throughout Alabama’s black belt, boost African American turnout across the state , and send a Democrat to the U.S. Senate from Alabama for the first time in decades.” — Antjuan Seawright, Blueprint Strategies LLC

Conclusion

Democrats believe that our leadership should always reflect the diversity of our party and our country. It is a political and moral imperative. We simply cannot be effective advocates for the communities we represent if we do not accurately reflect them at every single level — from staff, to party officers, to elected officials. Our mission is not complete, but we’ve made unprecedented progress. And we can say with confidence that we’ve spent this last year keeping our promise to build a Democratic Party that provides a voice for every single Democrat.

This information is presented by Laura Chambers, COO of the Democratic National Committee and a member of the senior leadership team leading the DNC’s inclusion and diversity initiatives.