Without disclosing specifics, I was recently involved in an activity which gave me a snapshot of something I know all too well. If I was to make assumptions solely based on this activity, I could say with all confidence that if you’re a minority working in an association, you’re probably not the lobbyist. Now, I know I’m making a sweeping generalization here, but my experiences don’t lie.
Throughout my career, I have traditionally been the only African-American in the room. It didn’t matter if I was attending a Democratic or Republican event, I stuck out. In the first three jobs I held in my association career, I was the first African-American in that position. I’m the only lobbyist in my DELP class and one of a handful in the 10-year history of the program. Even within the Washington Government Relations Group, an organization of African-American government relations professionals, association lobbyists make up a small percentage of the membership.
So what’s going on here? Why are there so few people of color within association government relations? Why are minority lobbyists not working for associations? What can I do, as an african american association lobbyist, to help make this career more accessible and desirable? These are difficult questions to answer. However, it presents some wonderful opportunities for change. I’m willing to take on this challenge. Are you?