Diversity in the Legislative Workplace 

Creation of a National Center to Promote Diversity
and Assist Minority Recruitment in State Legislative Staff Employment

2004 Concept Paper
Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee
Diversity Project-Recruitment/Participation Subcommittee


Public service in state legislatures is not limited to those who are elected to office.  In the 50 states, almost 35,000 staff employees are engaged in service to the institution and to its members through professions that include research, policy analysis, committee support, media relations, bill drafting, program evaluation, fiscal research and analysis, information systems management, legal counsel, security and administrative services. 

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recognizes that state legislative staff organizations face many challenges and opportunities as they encounter the employment and demographic trends that currently are sweeping over the nation's workplaces.  As the Baby Boom generation moves toward retirement, these offices face an unparalleled loss of institutional memory, accumulated skill and leadership.  Many state legislatures are beginning to study these trends and are in the early stages of establishing succession plans and other strategies to maintain their effectiveness.

These waves of change also bring opportunities.  As turnover increases in state legislatures among the long tenured staff, new opportunities open up for mid-level employees and for the development of a more racially and ethnically diverse workplace.  As representative institutions, state legislatures embrace the goal of diversity.  However, state legislatures need help designing minority recruitment programs, developing outreach into key communities and educating prospective employees about this unique and meaningful public service career possibility.


The National Conference of State Legislature proposes to create a national support service to state legislatures for minority recruitment and education about state legislative careers.  NCSL will seek out partnerships with organizations that have interests parallel to this initiative such as the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.  The new NCSL support service will focus on the following activities:

Research--Support service research will establish important baseline information and create a national information base that will be available to state legislatures.  Research activities will include: research on minority employment levels in state legislatures; identification of current minority recruitment programs in the states; assessment of best practices; creation of web-based and other resources and references for state legislative personnel officials and hiring authorities.  NCSL currently is completing work on a pilot survey of minority employment in state legislatures.

Outreach and Education--The NCSL support service will establish relationships with key colleges and universities and foster information exchange between state legislatures and these institutions about state legislative career opportunities.  NCSL staff employed on this project will reach out to appropriate communities by attending relevant conferences, job fairs and recruitment events, and by establishing personal working relationships with key players in the field. 

Clearinghouse--NCSL's mission always has been centered on its role as a bridge between the state legislatures for the exchange of information on issues of mutual interest.  The minority recruitment support service will work through NCSL's existing networks of legislative personnel directors and other hiring authorities to promote a new level of exchange on best practices, job announcement information, potential candidate pools and other recruitment issues.  NCSL will forward state legislative position announcements to appropriate candidate communities and expand it's current web-based jobs bulletin board. 

Publications--In July, 2003 NCSL published Embracing Diversity in the Legislative Workplace, a practical guide to state legislatures for broadening their base of minority employees and for fully realizing the strengths of a diverse workforce. This document represents the first element of a series of NCSL documents on this theme.  Publications produced by the NCSL support service will include: a directory of state legislative personnel officers; a collection of best practices in state legislatures and other public sector workplaces; an expansion of the Embracing Diversity guide; a bibliography of resources and contacts; and a web page dedicated to relevant information and links.

Training and Consulting--NCSL has extensive experience assisting state legislatures on-site with important management and personnel matters.  The NCSL support service will offer specialized consulting to state legislatures to help them build effective minority recruitment and diversity training programs.  Training also will be applied internally at NCSL in order to expand and improve the range of NCSL services available to state legislatures and to enhance NCSL's internal diversity and minority recruitment efforts.


The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is the only organization that counts all 35,000 state legislative staff employees among its members.  During its almost 30 years of service to these members, NCSL has conducted numerous projects on state legislative personnel matters.  The organization has developed dozens of manuals, workbooks, seminars and surveys on important staff management and employment topics and has advocated for the modernization of the state legislative workplace.

posted 9/7/04