K Street executives under pressure on diversity

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The lobbying world has been under pressure to diversify, and that scrutiny is now turning to the ranks of corporate lobbyists.

Eight of the top 10 spenders on lobbying among corporations have men leading their in-house teams.

But the rest of the top 10 corporate spenders on lobbying — Amazon, Facebook, United Technologies, Boeing, AT&T, Koch, Pfizer and Lockheed Martin — have men leading their D.C. offices.

Overall, at least 22 corporate heads of companies’ D.C. offices are people of color, according to data from the Washington Heads of Office, a group made up of senior government affairs executives of color. But those in the lobbying world say the numbers should be higher.

“Washington is a sophisticated, progressive, educated, affluent city. But given that environment, the fact that the political and advocacy worlds are not more diverse, it’s a major problem that has to be addressed and it’s a serious issue,” Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council, told The Hill.

Trade associations, lobbying shops and law firms say they are working to diversify their ranks after growing pressure amid the most diverse Congress in history. But critics say the top lobbying jobs at companies don’t see frequent turnover, and they say companies need to better nurture their talent pipeline.

“It’s not for lack of trying within the company. I think the issue, a lot of it is a pipeline problem in Washington,” Pinkham said.

“There aren’t that many folks in the top roles. There are some pipeline folks, but they still have a way to go, and that’s the challenge,” executive recruiter Julian Ha, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles, told The Hill.

Some companies are flush with minority and female lobbyists, but just not at the top spot.

Timothy McBride is the senior vice president of government relations at United Technologies. His lobbying team includes two African American men and two women, one of whom is Latina.

Philip Ellender is the president of government and public affairs at Koch, but the company has a woman, Catherine Haggett, as director of federal affairs.

There are also prominent companies with minorities in the highest ranks.

Alphabet, the parent company for Google, is the 11th highest spender on lobbying. Karan Bhatia, who is of Indian descent, is Google’s vice president of government affairs and public policy. In the top 15 spenders, FedEx’s D.C. operation is led by Gina Adams, an African American woman, and Microsoft’s by an African American man, Fred Humphries.

And there are more women in the 11–20 tier of corporate spenders. Victoria Blatter heads the D.C. office for Amgen Inc., Liz Reicherts leads the office for General Motors, and two energy giants, Chevron and ExxonMobil’s D.C. offices, are captained by Maria Pica Karp and Jeanne Mitchell, respectively.

But “a lot more needs to be done,” said Humphries, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of U.S. government affairs. “There’s a lot of exceptional, untapped talent in this town among people of color. We need more investment, more resources, more mentoring and a real, concerted effort to expand our pipelines.”

H Street Group, an informal association for Asian American lobbyists, told The Hill none of their members are leading D.C. corporate lobbying offices. (read more)

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