County has diversified its workforce, but nonwhites still leave at a higher rate

01/06/2021

The number of people of color who work for Marin County is on the rise, but the retention of those employees, especially women of color, is low. Data aggregated this year shows that people of color now represent 38 percent of the county’s workforce, a 20 percent increase since 2015. In 2019, 48 percent of all county hires were people of color. The county’s workforce has a higher representation of nonwhites than the region’s available hiring pool, which is 26 percent nonwhite across Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano and Sonoma Counties. Yet nonwhite people continue to leave the county at a much higher rate than white employees: In 2019, 78 percent of the people of color who left did so for non-retirement reasons, compared to 57 percent of white employees. Women of color, who make up a total of 23 percent of the county workforce today, accounted for the majority of those separations, both voluntarily and otherwise. “Workplace diversity efforts can’t be successful unless there is an equal if not greater focus on inclusion and equity, and the county’s difficulty in retaining people of color is such an example,” Roger Crawford, Marin’s equal employment opportunity director, said to the Board of Supervisors last month while presenting the county’s equal employment opportunity plan. “We need to look at this in two respects: Why are people of color resigning voluntarily at higher rates, and what do we do to make sure people are successful when they come and work for us?” Marin’s five-year business plan through 2020 set a goal of having a woman and a person of color on every interview panel, and that has been achieved. The business plan also aspired to increase the representation of women and people of color in upper management, which proved successful: People of color currently hold 38 percent of all upper management positions in the county, an increase of 43 percent since 2015. Each ethnic group is represented in upper management, with seven African Americans at the helm, up from one in 2015. Yet Latinos’ representation in upper management is below their representation in the overall workforce, and all people of color are underrepresented in middle and lower management positions. The higher turnover rate is partly at fault for this underrepresentation, as well as a lower promotion rate. Supervisor Katie Rice flagged the unequal representation in lower management as a particular concern. “Since some of our new employees are going to have a supervisor who is someone in lower management, then just establishing those relationships and making sure that we have that pool of diversity not just at the top of management but running all the way through, I think is really critical,” she said. The county is also tracking its representation of women in its workforce. In September, women accounted for 56 percent of employees, but just 42 percent of all upper management positions, an increase of 27 percent since 2015.