The city of Fort Worth’s goal is that its workforce reflect the diversity of the community. Numbers released by the city manager’s office show that, despite improvements, people of color still are underrepresented.
Dianna Giordano, the city’s human resources director, was available to City Council on May 3 to explain the statistics showing the change in staff demographics over a 10-year period, but no council member asked any questions.
The city does not have specific demographic quotas but is actively working to recruit applicants who embody the growing diversity in Fort Worth, said Giordano, who has been in her position for a little under a year.
To help make sense of the data, The Report analyzed and visualized the statistics on ethnicity and residency. To learn more about a statistic, hover your cursor – or thumb for mobile devices – over the bars in each graph.
Managerial positions increase diversity rapidly
To increase diversity, the city is employing a top-down approach, focusing first and foremost on attracting people from varying backgrounds to its managerial positions.
So far, the data show success. City managerial positions showed the most ethnic change during the past decade. Caucasian employees make up 15 percentage points less of the managerial workforce than in 2012. The city saw the largest increase in the percentage of Hispanic employees in managerial positions, followed by other races and then African-Americans.
“There is a big push to really make sure that the individuals that occupy those leadership positions, those positions of influence, are diverse because they’re the ones that are really making the hiring decisions,” Giordano said. “They’re making decisions that impact not just operations but the overall culture and workforce of the city.”
Christina Brooks is the chief equity officer and director of the Diversity & Inclusion Department. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an influx of open city positions, she said. Instead of racing to fill those positions with outside candidates, she said, the city is working to help current employees step into new, expanded roles.
“Pre-COVID, local government positions were such that folks stayed in positions for their whole career,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to advance and see different parts of the city. One of the upsides to what’s happened over the last couple years is we are seeing open opportunities in departments, opportunities for advancement.”
Caucasians are overrepresented in city of Fort Worth staffing positions
While Caucasians make up only 39% of Fort Worth residents, they account for over half of city staff. In contrast, Hispanic and African-American residents are underrepresented on city staff. A lack of representation for minorities in local elected positions has been well documented; the data from the city manager’s office indicates this trend is also consistent for non-elected city staff positions.
To attract more varied applicants, the city has simplified its applicant tracking system, Giordano said. Now, applicants only have to submit a resume, whereas previously they also had to fill out an additional city form. The city has also started noting where experience can substitute for education in specific positions.
City recruiters are also targeting area schools with more diverse populations, particularly in Fort Worth ISD, and several technical and career high schools, Giordano said. On the other side of the equation, the city is also working to improve its retainment of current employees with diverse backgrounds.
“We need to shore up some of our work in building succession plans and developing internal growth,” Brooks said. “We need to maintain the city as an employer of choice, make sure that employees stay with us, and provide opportunities for advancement.”
Fort Worth has become more diverse in past decade, but city isn’t keeping up
Fort Worth has seen a rise in the percent of residents who are Hispanic, African-American, or other races, and a decrease in the percent of residents who are Caucasian.
The gains in minority ethnicities have been modest; no group increased by more than 1.5 percent since 2012. The decline in the percentage of residents who are Caucasian has been more noticeable — it dipped from 42.33% to 39.17% from 2012 to 2022.
The city of Fort Worth’s staff has followed a similar trend. However, there was a drop in the percentage of city staff who are African-American compared with 2012. No other minority ethnicity recorded a decrease.
“In recent years we’ve been doing very well in attracting diverse leaders for our organization,” assistant city manager Fernando Costa said. “There’s more that we want to do toward that end, to move toward a workforce and executive team that generally reflects the characteristics of the community we serve. We still have gaps we want to fill, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
Over half of city staff live outside of Fort Worth
Employee residency is also included as part of the city’s diversity survey. Only 49% of city staff live in Fort Worth, up from 44% in 2012. Tarrant County as a whole is less diverse than Fort Worth, with more than 46% identifying as Caucasian.
“We don’t look at the address of an individual in hiring decisions, but it’s certainly something we promote, that residing in the city of Fort Worth is something that we prefer,” Giordano said. “But it’s not an absolute for most positions.”
While the city can definitely improve its efforts to reach out to local candidates, Brooks said, the citywide data presented in the informal report includes people not in the workforce, like newborns and retirees. If the city looked at a more refined dataset, which only focused on the workforce population, she said there might be some differences in the numbers.
“But we can definitely improve on reaching out to residents in Fort Worth,” she said. “We’ve gotta do a much better job of reaching out to our neighbors.”
The majority of employees — 70% — live in Tarrant County, which Giordano said could mean they’re only a few blocks outside of city limits, or on the other side of the highway.
“We talked about looking into (why employees live outside Fort Worth) further, as individuals that reside in Fort Worth are going to have more commitment to the city they live in,” she said. “I can’t say for certainty, though, that we have any formal steps in place.”
Police and fire departments lag furthest behind in African-American staffing
At the council work session, Police Chief Neil Noakes introduced the newest commander, Monica Martin, as the department’s highest-ranking Black female in its history. Data from the informal report, however, shows that both the police department and the fire department have fewer African-American employees as a percentage of their total workforce than they did in 2012.
Increasing diversity in civil service departments, like police and fire, is complicated by the multiple step-hiring processes unique to each department, Giordano said.
“We’re trying to map out their entire hiring process beginning to end,” she said. “There’s a lot of steps that are involved with the civil service — they have the physical agility tasks, they have the written exams, they have oral boards, and so we’re trying to see backgrounds of course, we’re trying to see kind of where the fallout was, what’s happening as they work though that process that might affect those diverse candidates.”
Both departments are aware and actively working on the issue, she said. The fire department has already begun taking proactive steps to increase its gender diversity, after an informal report to council flagged an increasing dropout rate for female recruits.
“I think diversity makes us better as an organization, it gives us a greater mix of viewpoints of people who happen to come from different backgrounds, it helps us see bigger picture more clearly,” Costa said.
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.