Photo courtesy of Flickr user Nathaniel F.

In its latest article focusing on Pittsburgh, Fast Company reports on Mayor Peduto’s staff—the most diverse in the city’s history—and his work as one of several US mayors leading the way for inclusion and equality in city government.

In her article, “How The Mayor Of Pittsburgh Hired The Most Diverse Staff In The City’s History,” writer Debra Smit, a NEXTpittsburgh contributor, reports that “Across the country, in many of the nation’s most diverse cities, white males still comprise a majority of the government workforce, statistics that mirror corporate America. Males hold 79% of all federal government jobs and 83% of government workers are white, according to a 2011 study of the nonpartisan Center for American Progress. Similar gaps prevail at the state and local levels, in some cases more so.”

Here at home, Mayor Peduto is working to change this ratio, making diversity hiring a cornerstone of his administration and bringing new voices to the table.

“Boards, authorities and commissions should reflect the diversity of the city,” says Peduto. “It has to be a commitment all the way to the top.”

How to accomplish this? Peduto began by confronting the lack of diversity on every board, commission and authority in Pittsburgh. He appointed an executive cabinet of four women and three men, including two African-Americans, a Cuban, and a daughter of Chinese immigrants. Another 45 people were selected to serve on 11 boards, authorities, and commissions. Of them, 55% are women and about one-quarter are African-American.

Setting aside quotas and taking an alternative approach to hiring, Peduto handed the reins over to an outside organization. He worked with The Pittsburgh Foundation, Richard King Mellon, Heinz, Hillman, Benedum and Buhl Foundations to launch Talent City. The $275,000 digital platform traded power for talent, Peduto says, casting a wider net for applications and vetting candidates for every open city position.

“We needed a much better system (for hiring) than the old political machine system of bringing in the staff of the campaign and friends and political donors,” says Peduto. “By relinquishing our hiring power to a nonprofit, we created a model that’s entirely new. No one had turned the keys over to an outside party before.”

Peduto hired Maura Kennedy, the first woman in the city’s history to be director of the Bureau of Building Inspections. In another first in city history, the Office of Municipal Investigations is being run by an African-American woman, Deborah Walker.

“A diverse viewpoint helps to create a better product,” Peduto says.

What are local stakeholders saying about these changes? “It’s not just important but required that a mayor take the lead in this area for real change to take place,” says Melanie Harrington, president and CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh. “The signals he’s sending through his programs, processes and transparentness create a heightened sense of awareness and show others what they should be doing.”

Fast Company goes on to cite other US cities such as Boston, San Francisco and Salt Lake City which have “diversity and inclusion” departments. Last year Peduto even met with US mayors from Minneapolis, Dayton, Rochester, San Antonio and Oakland, who are putting equality, access and diversity at the forefront of their agendas.

Read the entire article in Fast Company.

Look for a feature article running soon on this topic in NEXTpittsburgh.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.