Article
July 29, 2014

Minorities Underrepresented at Environmental Groups, Report Says

Environmental organizations—overwhelmingly the domain of white professionals—must implement strategies to combat unconscious bias and a lack of diversity in hiring, a new report says.

Commissioned by a diversity advocacy group called Green 2.0, the report found that while people of color make up about 36 percent of the U.S. population and 29 percent of the science and engineering work force, they account for no more than 16 percent of the staffs at environmental organizations.

None of the largest organizations by budget had a person of color in top leadership positions such as president or vice president, the report found. The findings were based on examinations of 191 conservation and preservation organizations, 74 government environmental agencies, and 28 environmental grant-making foundations, as well interviews with 21 professionals in the field.

The lack of racial diversity in the professional ranks of environmental organizations dates to the birth of the modern environmental movement in the 1960s, the report says, despite the fact that minorities are disproportionately affected by environmental problems.

Recruitment often occurs through word-of-mouth and professional networks.

"This makes it difficult for ethnic minorities, the working class, or anyone outside of traditional environmental networks to find out about job openings and apply for those jobs," the report says.

One area of progress has been in hiring women. They now account for more than 60 percent of new hires at the conservation and preservation groups that participated in the study, and they hold more than half of the 1,714 leadership positions. Still, the gains have largely benefited white women, according to the report.

Men still make up 70 percent of presidents and board chairs at conservation and preservation groups, while also dominating the executive-director positions in government agencies.