Diverse People Influence Decisions in Government…

Posted on July 30, 2015

Last time you read the survey responses to “Current State of Diversity in the Local Government.” Now we present the responses to:

“Please respond to whether this statement rings true and explain: Diverse people have a voice at the table and influence decisions at all levels of government…”

Social inequities prevent certain groups from being as involved as they could or would like to be; often the decision making teams are not well represented of the whole community.
The levels of diversity in government do not match the levels of diversity within our communities. We need to work hard to include the plight of under-served populations in every initiative, not just key items.
Diverse backgrounds in life experiences help produce, or rather, complete a “360” on how those decisions effect people as a whole (diversity among decision makers is directly proportional to the scope of the effect on the people that the decision is being made)
Not really. But intent does not equal proof. And government has yet to unlock the keys to garnering true participation from diverse voices. Heck, we can’t even get our majority populations to the table most of the time.
Not true.  The systems in place do not encourage diverse voices.  They are allowed by law but the environment does not welcome the input.
I do not feel this is true. I think that often times people who come from minority races or other minority groups have a harder time being heard or participating in local government because they are not given the space to participate or they don’t feel comfortable participating in the spaces local government often provides (think sterile meeting rooms, power point presentations and online surveys).
No, no, no.  I spent the majority of my career ‘crafting’ my message/responses so I would:

  • be heard in my male dominated industry (law enforcement)
  • not be perceived as “the angry black woman.”

Men could express themselves in ANY manner, but I had to be careful.  Things are different now as I have learned how to be heard, even when others want to silence me.  But some of my female co-workers are struggling with this balance.
Yes, but unfortunately cannot be exercised with a lack of diversity. Diverse people bring diverse ideas, giving opportunity to voice opinions. Whether or not it is supported is a whole different matter – because much of that depends on those sitting at the table and whether they feel comfortable with hearing someone else’s voice.
In my city specifically, the higher the level, the less diverse.  There are no individuals of color on our city council, and few in senior leadership.
Diverse people should have a voice at the table to influence decisions at all levels of government. However, this is not always the case.
In every place except the highest levels, I believe this is true.
The leadership of most local governments are polarized to what they have been taught and maintain the hierarchical top down management.  This approach has not included departmental managers, thus relegating department managers to silo type operations.  There are too many department managers to include in a true decision making flow, breaking them into groups or developing a decision making input tree that included the “management” team would diversify the input.
True. Diversity is an issue that a lot of local government employees take seriously, particularly those who make employment decision.
Diverse people who have the courage to challenge conventional thinking are sometimes listened to, but mostly you have to be a male to be considered competent.
This statement does not always ring true.  The diversity (or lack thereof) of the stakeholders drive the message.
I think that government leaders try to be representative and inclusive, but in reality, public leadership is not diverse.
True.  Public servants below the management level tend to resist change more than in the private sector.  This makes it more important for managers at all levels to promote positive change, especially with regard to diversity and inclusion initiatives and discussions.
No.  Traditional community organizations such as chamber of commerce, homeowner’s organizations tend to skew to older, Caucasian men – which results in a stronger role in government decisions.
Most people drown others out when they hear the same things over and over and it is being beaten over their heads. But if you approach things from a ‘hey, are we missing a voice or a perspective’ type of approach, others usually listen and are appreciative that someone brought up another viewpoint.
False. Diverse people are invited to the table but only to receive the crumbs. They are allowed to hear the conversation but are not permitted see the full vision or add there voice to the conversation. They are to be seen not heard.
Partially true. There is a small level of diversity in the decision-making roles of this organization. I feel those with the final say do not have that same level of diversity. The ultimate decision makers lack a true level of diversity.
I think it should be true, I’m not sure it actually is.  I live in central/western Virginia and most regional activities are dominated by White, male leaders.
Definitely.  If everyone in government shares the same ideas, beliefs, has the same experiences and background, then it is almost impossible to come up with fresh ideas to solve problems for a community that is diverse.
True in a minimal/strict interpretation. The voice and influence is there, it’s just not very loud or well heard. Token inclusion is not real inclusion. It’s not helpful and is likely damaging.
When a Caucasian leader (Manager, director, elected official or city manager) addresses the topic of diversity, they are not addressing the real issue but simply making a “one-time” effort to address the topic.  From what I have seen, “diverse people” is seen as “divided people”.
Within the contexts to which they are invited, this is true. However, there is an overemphasis on the resumes of today vs. the capacity to grow, which stalls diversification. Those most likely to have the resumes do not dovetail with the capacity to increase diversity.
I think our elected officials are open to influence from all citizens in our community. Regardless, many recent immigrants are disconnected from local governmental organizations. Language is a barrier. Cultural norms are different. Some, if not, many are undocumented. Most are fearful of all government, especially the police, so we hardly ever hear from them, unless their conflicts with one another get pretty extreme.
Yes, in my situation, there are different genders, ethnicities, and generations at every level with each bringing a unique perspective.
Varies widely by locale, local government leadership and broader community sentiments.  In some cases, lack of diversity in decision-making can reflect lack of diversity in the local government workforce.  In other cases, it reflects broader community history and leadership.  In some cases, diverse input is truly embraced.  In other cases, it is included but not really valued.
False. In my discipline, I do not observe a great deal of diversity at the table. I think that people are seeking it out, but we need to do better.
Yes, this is true.  The more perspectives at the table, the more likely solutions will be creative and inclusive.
In some areas, yes.  At the highest levels of the organization: Female: yes. Urban vs. Rural: yes.  Minority and other diversity such as LGTB, younger generations: no.
Absolutely— now more than ever!
There is little to no diversity at supervisory, upper management and executive management levels.  Diversity manager role is minimized and not fully supported by executive management.
We are working on inclusion at all levels of the organization through the hiring and promotional process.
I don’t think this statement rings true. We are in the early stages of understanding diversity so it is unclear what “influence” really means when it comes to diversity.
I would like to say this is true but it is an area our local government needs to work on. I believe they are open to have voices heard but I do not believe this translate to having influence on decisions.
Not true. Voice is different than have a ‘say’ in matters pertaining to diversity. A voice is something heard while a having a say meaning there is actual influence that produces a result. However, with the establishment of the proverbial diversity councils, diversity officer, and the emergence of ‘equity’ as a diversity factor; ‘say’ is coming.
While I believe this is generally true, positions at the CAO level and to a lesser degree the elected level still remain predominantly male. The fact that only 13% of top administrators (City Managers and County Administrators) are female is appalling in 2015.
From a citizenry perspective this rings true – any group that can mobilize and engage with public officials will at least be heard and inform the decision making of most governing boards/councils.  From a staff perspective I’d say this is less true.  It is tricky for employees below a certain organizational level to really be heard or shape their work environment given some older school management mentalities.
This statement rings true in theory, but not necessarily in practice. There are organizations and departments that go the extra mile to provide the types of forums where diverse people can influence decision making, but I don’t think it’s true at all levels or in all local governments — at least not yet!
Not true. The government system (policy) is still dominated by a handful of people who are not diverse in accepting new ideas and new ways of doing things.
ABSOLUTELY! It’s time to think outside of the box. When you get a group of individuals who are diverse, the opportunities are endless. So many different perspectives also leads to creativity.
Yes, a voice, but not necessarily a strong voice at all levels.
It should.  However, the local governments I deal with do not understand how to reach a diverse set of voices. There is still a big “you come to us” mentality (which includes websites).
Mostly true. There is a disconnect between the grassroots, academic, and practitioner points of view. Many places you have very active and vocal diverse community who are actively trying to shape the policies and actions of their government, only to have those representing them or carrying out policy not having the world-view or experiences of that diverse community.
Highly unlikely as upper management positions are generally held by middle age Caucasian men.  Caucasian women are starting to infiltrate the arena however.
Yes, if it works and is cost effective.
Not so much at the local level in rural communities. This is not created by exclusion; rather more of a lack of involvement and/or interest.
I completely disagree.  There is no engaged platform to discuss issues or ideas an employee may have regarding race relations or insurance for same sex relationships. Also there is now one in the City designated to handle diversity issues or outreach.
It rings true, although the personal choice to come to the table is an obstacle which skews the results.  Many still feel that government will not listen or don’t care about them as individuals or groups.
No. It pains me to even think about it, but when services are provided to those that are “the squeaky wheel” and not to the silent hard working majority that does not have the time, energy, nor political know how to complain. When constituents demand a greater portion of resources that directly take funds from the poorer areas who are not asking, it angers me. It is also unjust that those with greater political ties, clout, and education can properly work the system to their personal advantage in order to get cleaner, newer streets, working traffic lights, bio swales, lenient permitting processes, and forgiveness for late fees and application charges. I watch the same wealth receive faster service, empathy, and coordination from government leaders in higher positions. It’s a fact of life, but seeing it saddens me and motivates me to work harder to treat everyone equally.
I don’t think they do, unfortunately.  It has been challenging for communities to get diverse people to run for elected office and work for local government.  Even when some minorities run for elected office, they often don’t get elected. I’m not saying that all voters vote based on race or the perception of, but some do.  In some communities, a bulk of the minority population (immigrant) are ineligible to vote.
I’d say this rings truest in local government.  People at the local level have the ability to attend local meetings, run for office, and become involved more easily than the state or federal levels.
Doesn’t ring true.  From my experiences with local government, the faces I see are Caucasian.  This comes from years of attending statewide seminars, workshops, training, conferences and a variety of governmental non-profit association organizations such as watershed, conservation district, and other types.  In my community we hired four people in recent years.  The applications lacked diversity, even though notices of openings, were sent to a variety of employment resources.
This does not ring true to me. This is tough because, to me, diversity is also about those with diverse life experiences as far as income relates to opportunity. So what if you have a racially and gender diverse workforce if they don’t represent the unique experiences of having been a first generation college student, or having grown up in poverty? This is a dimension of diversity that is left out of the conversation.
No. What is the definition of diversity? Race, economic class, education level, religion? You will probably be able to find a lack of diversity if you search for it at any level of government.
No, most minorities in many municipalities work in low level positions or, feel that to be promoted, he/she should just remain silent on particular issues.
It’s not been my experience that everyone’s voice at the table has the same influence or is even heard.  In the organizations I’ve worked in, the most influence voices came from the gentleman who had been with the City the longest and mainly from Public Works and Police.  Women had to “fight” for they place at the table.  Males who did not subscribe to the “old guard” were also not offered the same opportunities to contribute to decisions.  Only when there was a City Manager who tried to change that “culture” were there some opportunities for those who were not “old white guys” to be influential.
This is a lovely goal to have, and something to strive for, but present day, patently false.  Depending on locality, and history, inclusion of diverse voices in decision making varies.
Very rarely.  While there are a few instances, it is rarely the case in our council chambers, with our work force or with our outreach.  The world is changing, and we as a profession must adapt and stay relevant.  We need to do a better job of outreach so that this statement will be (closer) to true.
Note true. There are very few women as Borough Managers, Department Heads, etc. There are more women in total, but not at higher levels. Similarly for ethnic minorities, etc.
No. Whether intentional or not, we have created a system of public input that only allows a select few to gain access to the table. We expect people to travel and participate in a process without explaining it to them or chide them for not doing it “our way.” We shun those who have a vocal opinion that is different from our own and then dismiss them as the ravings of “the public.” If we want diverse opinions and voices, we have to go to the places where those diverse voices live, work and exist. It will not happen at 7 p.m. on City Council Meeting night.
False. There are many very legitimate reasons why minority groups are uncomfortable with or distrustful of local government and our typical process.
I think most organizations think of diversity from a race perspective and not from a perspective of what it means to be an inclusive community/organization.  Race, gender, different generations…all contribute to diversity in a workplace which equates to talent.
False. There are examples of women and minorities in positions of influence/power, but 13% is not enough. There is still significant disparity at the management level and above. This is especially true at the Mayor/City Manager/CEO level.
Slightly disagree.  The loudest voices from the citizenry are retired, male, Caucasian which does not represent the citizenry as a whole.  I think government needs to make a stronger effort to go where the people are rather than invite them to come to the government.
Not true. Diverse perspectives are always absent, whether it is gender, ethnicity, age, income, etc. local government does a poor job at setting the table for diverse dialogue.
Somewhat.  On teams, diversity is absolutely involved and heard; however, in terms of upper management, where the key players are limited in number, they are who they are, diverse or not.
In some areas and levels this is true, but in others it is not.  For example, there is little diversity in planning and/or engineering projects.  Finding the diverse population in my town is not easy, you have to work to get participation from different groups including people of diverse backgrounds, etc.  We could do better at reaching out and getting input from diverse community members.
One negative with most government organizations is they only hire people with government experience.  This practice can reduce the diversity of the organization’s workforce.  If you must have government experience to be hired for a government job, then you automatically eliminate the diverse voices in the private sector.
It rings true. Diversity brings with it the diversity of experience, style, communication, ideas, and it’s a good thing. This is true  not just of that tip of the iceberg visible diversity, but of all types of diversity like ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, political affiliation, socio-economic status, etc. And even a bunch of folks who are the “same” on a lot of levels can exhibit vast diversity of style, approach, etc., and generally, work teams are better for it.
Depends on whether you think about this statement as applicable broadly across all governments, in all states, or as applicable only to one local government at one point in time.  I think that diverse voices are represented broadly across the entire spectrum, and at the same time there are issues of concern to diverse audiences, where the voices are not heard in some places.
It depends on the community. Some communities work to include their communities as the community changes, some work really hard to make people fit into the past practices and culture and therefore marginalize diverse populations.
True. We are not building a future for people who think, look, and act just like us. We are building a future that should reflect the needs of the entire community. And if we want to create a sustainable model we need to be thinking globally, even if you think you have no global impact.
Diverse people do NOT have a voice at the table.  They have people speaking for them who are at the table through advocacy groups but it is rare that they themselves are at the table.  (My experience is more with state government.)
Not really – local governments don’t seek diverse voices/opinions, and this extends beyond race but also gender, age, economic status, etc. This makes sense since I live in a ‘good ol boy’ system – all of these people are helping each other out to keep everyone else from impacting decisions.
True. We each have our own viewpoints because our families and towns pass different experiences to each of us, and then we each have our own experiences as life gives us both good and bad situations. If everyone thought alike on a panel then that panel is one-sided. Differences and the willingness to have a calm, healthy discussion about them equals progress.
I do not think this rings true in several ways, Governments need to value the voices of younger generation of workers, and make genuine efforts to put together racial diverse, generationally diverse work groups so that there can be better outcomes.  The same people are making all the decisions.
Not true. Very few local governments in California have elected representatives or lead staff that reflect the diversity of the community
The dynamics of the elected officials in the smaller jurisdictions tend to be more homogenous and less diverse than in the larger organizations. In my experience the larger (more urban) organizations have exhibited racial and gender diversity.   However, our smaller, more suburban and rural organizations have been predominantly white males at the top; females and African Americans are still represented, but in more ‘supportive’ roles.
I agree.  I believe that diverse voices which include things from income, race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, where you grew up, how you grew up, age, socio-economic status, education level, etc. gives a unique perspective and gets more conversations occurring about the possible decision.
There are two factor here.  The obvious, is there diversity in the pool of influencers and decision makers?  The second thing is, there is a difference between having a seat, a voice and some influence and actually using it and then using it responsibly.
#YAAASSSSSS Government has historically makes decisions on what we think is best for everyone. It’s hard to make the best decision if everyone doesn’t have a seat at the table. We are good about making decisions about what we think is best for white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, formally educated, English-speaking men.
I disagree. I think diversity is lacking in all levels of government. There has been more success in achieving diversity in elected officials, yet appointed or even lower down the chain is still lacking in diversity.

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