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Maryland lags behind in hiring Hispanics [Commentary]

In Maryland, Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the population and in the workforce, yet only 1 percent of them are employed by the state government. An analysis of the state's most recent Equal Employment Opportunity Report, for fiscal year 2013, reveals a serious problem of gross underrepresentation of Hispanic workers, with many stuck in low paying positions. This must be addressed by the next governor to overcome employment barriers and discrimination to provide fair and equal employment opportunities for all.

There are 92,125 state positions throughout Maryland — 51,676 in government, where Maryland Hispanics accounted for a dismal 575 jobs, or 0.01 percent, with none of the positions in the cabinet and only two in the top 200 spots. The remaining 40,449 positions are in higher education. Of the 38,636 jobs in the public university system, just 1,409, or 3.7 percent, are filled by Hispanics. The figures are worse in the independent higher education institutions, where 31 of 1,813 total jobs are filled by Hispanics — 1.7 percent. This is an alarming, unfavorable statistic.

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By contrast, African Americans represent 43 percent of the state workforce, though they make up just 30 percent of the state population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The EEO report claims that Maryland is "in the business of promoting equality, enforcing laws that protect us all from being treated differently, and ensuring that our workforce reflects the communities we serve." Equal opportunity for all is not just a slogan, but an important policy framed in our laws (see Governor O'Malley's 2007 Executive Order 01.01.2007.16) to protect those who are underserved and underrepresented and who face unequal treatment in employment.

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But hard facts show a disappointing, alarming trend of low Hispanic employment and opportunities, even for college graduates and those qualified as managers in Maryland. While their numbers continue to grow rapidly, the percentage of Hispanics in statewide positions has not grown with demographic trends. The raw data and metrics disclose an utter failure of policies and broken hiring practices.

At the current pace, it may take 100 years to close this gap. Therefore, we need a new paradigm to address the chronic underemployment of Hispanics and a demonstrated will and commitment from our state leaders to diversify our government workforce.

We call on the next governor to issue an executive order that puts in place goals of hiring 5,000 Hispanics over five years in order to achieve diversity in numbers that reflects population demographics and move toward reaching parity with other targeted minority groups. Clearly, with the stroke of a pen that mandates performance goals and measures results, new hires in underrepresented classes can be achieved.

Human Resource managers should be given a set of priorities and goals to be considered first for job positions. The governor should direct agency heads to:

•Implement employment procedures patterned after the National Football League's "Rooney Rule," which requires teams to interview minority candidates seeking head coaching or general manager jobs before making hiring decisions.

•Allow agencies to share information on qualified job applicants. Agencies with similar needs should share their qualified job candidate pools with one another, which would enable them to save recruitment efforts that cost time and money.

•Require policy makers to consider Hispanics as a preference group since it is the most underrepresented group and focus on giving preferences in recruiting and interviewing similar to those afforded to veterans.

•Replace under achieving human resource offices with contracted private sector "staffing agencies" to review and recommend candidates, as opposed to human resource "insiders" controlling the hiring process. A comparison of agency insider hires versus outside private sector managed hires should reveal progress made.

•Direct the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs to review yearly EEO reports and issue recommendations based on an annual score card of hiring progress made by each state agency, including the university system and independent higher education institutions.

Clearly, new policies need to be enacted by the next governor to address equal opportunities, underrepresentation and lack of diversity and inclusion so it does not continue. Only by holding policy makers accountable can we expect Maryland to lead by example and include all of its citizens as part of Maryland's future.

Roger A. Campos is president of the Minority Business RoundTable, a non partisan, national organization representing of CEOs of small, minority and women business owners. His email is rogercampos@mbrt.net.

To respond to this commentary, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

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