Blacks fail to make inroads into high-paying, senior-level city jobs under Kenney

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA —  African Americans have yet to make significant inroads into high-paying and senior-level positions in city government during Mayor Jim Kenney’s tenure.

Whites maintained their grip on 58.7 percent of senior leadership jobs in city government and 73.3 percent of Kenney’s inner cabinet, according to the 2020 Workforce Diversity Profile and Annual Report released on Friday. The report is a snapshot of the city’s demographic data through June 2020.

African Americans accounted for nearly 37 percent of the senior leadership positions, which include Kenney’s cabinet members, department heads, and commissioners.

Blacks held three of the 15 positions (20 percent) in Kenney’s inner cabinet, his closest appointees who shape policy and operations.

When it comes to the city’s executive workforce, or those making at least $90,000, African Americans accounted for 32.4% of those jobs, whereas whites held 54.7 percent of them.

Little has changed for African Americans from November 2016, during Kenney’s first year in office when the initial report was issued.

In 2016, Blacks made up 25 percent of Kenney’s cabinet and 28 percent of the department heads, compared to whites who held 69 percent and 61 percent, respectively. That same year, African American held 31 percent of executive workforce jobs.

The racial makeup of the city’s high-level workforce is at odds with the demographics of the city’s population, which is 40 percent Black, 34 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic or Latinx, and 7 percent Asian, among others.

Kenney acknowledged the lack of diversity in top-level positions in a released statement accompanying the report.

“While we are proud of the progress made to date, we also know there is more work to do — particularly in continued efforts to increase diversity amongst our senior officials and reducing the pay disparity for employees of color,” Kenney said.

“That is why we are doubling down on our Administration’s commitment to building a workforce that is more inclusive and representative of the people it serves.”

African Americans held the largest share of the city’s 24,633 jobs, accounting for 48.2 percent of them. Whites held 39.4 percent of all government jobs, followed by Hispanics and Latinx at 6.8 percent, and Asians at 3.7 percent, among others.

As far as the city’s 1,722 non-civil service jobs, known as the exempt workforce, whites accounted for the largest share (46 percent), followed by African Americans (35.9 percent), Hispanics and Latinx (7.5 percent), and Asians (6.7 percent).

Overall, the diversity of the city’s exempt workforce has grown by 3.6 percent and executive employees rose by 6.5 percent since Kenney took office.

Several key departments continue to skew heavily white under Kenney.

In the Philadelphia Police Department, Blacks make up 33.1 percent of the workforce, well below their share of the city’s population, while whites accounted for 54.5 percent of the force.

Fewer Black employees now hold jobs in the Police Department compared with the end of 2016 as the overall number of employees has decreased. The police department was made up of 2,424 Black employees this year, down from 2,991 four years ago.

The Free Library of Philadelphia, which has suffered criticism of the racial demographics of its workforce this year, also remains majority-white. African Americans account for 44.8 percent of employees in the Free Library, whereas whites make up 46 percent.

In the Law Department, African Americans made up 27 percent of the workforce compared with whites at 60 percent.

In other departments, African Americans made up the majority of employees, including the Department of Prisons (73.1 percent), Department of Streets (79 percent), and Department of Human Services (78.8 percent).

The city’s workforce skews male, with 64.71 percent of the jobs, compared with 35.29 percent held by females.

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared