Where’s the diversity in association government relations?

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?

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2 thoughts on “Where’s the diversity in association government relations?

  1. Huge sigh. I don’t know and I am puzzled and wonder how this could be. Are there more African-American lobbyists in the corporate world? How do the numbers of other African-American staff in associations compare to the lack of lobbyists? (I think that was worded awkwardly but .. hopefully you’ll get the gist.)

    After seeing “Freedom Riders” on Fri. at the Newseum and meeting some of the original riders and the new crop of riders (WATCH this documentary on Mon., 5/16 on pbs and on twitter follow #pbsbus) I wonder why we have so far to go .. still.

    1. Joan – I’m almost willing to bet money that there are more African-American lobbyists in the corporate world than in associations. As for staff, I really don’t know where the disconnect is. I’m not sure if it’s because more opportunities in other departments or GR isn’t as appealing. I’ve been in contact with an ASAE staff about this topic and I thinking about proposing a project to look into why certain aspects of association managemetn seem more diverse than others.

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