Joe Biden, under increasing pressure to be more transparent about his presidential campaign’s diversity, released figures Saturday that show people of color accounting for 35% of his full-time staff.
The numbers also show a staff that’s 53% female and a senior staff — in which the Biden team counted consultants “who spend the majority of their time on the campaign” — who is 36% nonwhite and 58% female.
Over the last decade, representation in political campaigns and in high government offices has become a point of criticism and concern about, especially, Democratic officials and stakeholders. But recently, as the country examines systemic racism, those concerns have become more pointed in politics, business, and media. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, had for months claimed to have the most diverse staff, even as his campaign refused to back him up with data. (During the primaries, several of Biden’s top rivals — including Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren — reported having staffs that were at least 40% nonwhite.)
Biden’s silence continued earlier this week, when, in response to questions from BuzzFeed News, campaign officials declined to provide numbers but indicated they might do so soon.
It was Biden himself who expedited the release. At a Saturday forum for Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters, moderator Amna Nawaz of PBS NewsHour pressed him on the matter, eliciting a promise that the numbers would be available after the online forum.
“When we look at dismantling systemic racism in America, political institutions like campaigns are often among the worst offenders,” Nawaz told Biden during their exchange. “So what do you now say to the voters of color who worry that if you can’t lead the way on fixing this on your own team right now, then maybe you can’t lead the way on fixing it in the rest of the country?”
Nawaz then added: “When will you release that staff diversity data?”
Biden quickly responded. “I will release that staff diversity data today,” he said. “When we get off this call, we’ll call you. You know, the fact of the matter is we have a very diverse staff, and we have a diverse staff that goes across the board, and high level and senior positions. So I will make sure we release that to you and it does include AAPI members as well as a significant number of African Americans, a significant number of women, and Latinos.”
The campaign emailed overall numbers to reporters several hours later and emphasized AAPI senior leaders, including the campaign’s chief financial and campaign officers. There were no detailed breakdowns by race or ethnicity — metrics that are also important, said Alida Garcia, founder of Inclusv, a group that promotes racial diversity in national politics.
“While Inclusv focuses on increasing the number of Black, indigenous, and people of color working in politics broadly, we think it’s critically important that each community knows their makeup within this data so that they can self advocate for increased representation across organization,” Garcia said Saturday.
Democratic candidates released staff diversity data on a quarterly basis in the last presidential election. A summary of data from the end of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign shows the number of people on staff who identified as racially and ethnically diverse comprised more than 38% of the campaign and more than 34% of leadership, according to a former Clinton official.
Biden advisers have not addressed why they kept the numbers a secret for so long, though this week the campaign, responding to BuzzFeed News questions, for the first time disclosed that it employs — and has for nearly a year — a chief people, diversity, and inclusion officer.
President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign also had resisted requests for staff diversity data but shared limited data late Saturday, following Biden’s disclosure. Trump’s senior staff is 25% nonwhite and 56% female, according to the campaign, with 52% of the full-time staff female. Full staff data tracking people of color was “not available.”