Board adopts new equity standard for hiring executive-level positions

November 16, 2018

Multnomah County Commissioners on Nov. 15 established the “Gladys McCoy Standard” that requires that qualified candidates of color or other underrepresented groups to be interviewed when hiring for executive-level positions.

Commissioner Loretta Smith and Chair Deborah Kafoury brought forward the resolution. The standard is named for the former County Chair and Commissioner Gladys McCoy, who was the first African American to serve on the County Board. After nearly 164 years, Commissioner Smith is only the second African American elected to the Board.

“Improving our work environment and increasing opportunities for qualified applicants of color allows us to regularly live the values we espouse,’’ Commissioner Smith said. “Including these applicants indicates to the public and employees that we are walking our talk.’’

Commissioner Smith worked on the resolution with Sam Sachs, founder of the No Hate Zone and a former human rights commissioner at the City of Portland Office of Equity.

The standard is modeled upon the Rooney Rule, named by former Pittsburgh Steeler chairman Daniel Rooney, who recognized in 2003, that although 68 percent of players in the National Football League were people of color, almost no coaches were.

After Rooney adopted a standard of interviewing at least one qualified minority candidate, the number of minority coaches increase by 23 percent, and two black coaches soon faced one another in the Super Bowl.

Sachs has been a leading proponent of such standards in Oregon, helping push through the Charles Jordan rule at City Hall and at Oregon universities. Private companies have also followed suit, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook. Standards have helped increase diversity among executives by more than 20 percent.

“It works and I am proud Oregon has been the first place outside the NFL to lead this on the state and local level,’’ Sachs said.

Jimmy Brown, Commissioner Smith’s long-time chief of staff and retired county employee, said he saw the standard as part of the County’s broader workforce equity efforts, and a strategy was worthy of Gladys McCoy.

“I had the opportunity to work with Gladys McCoy,’’ Brown said. “Gladys McCoy was a champion who used her influence to shape the ethnic makeup of the workforce long before it was necessary or appropriate.”

Mary McCoy, Martha McCoy Swanson, Sam Sachs and Willy McCoy address the Board.

Gladys McCoy’s daughters Martha McCoy Swanson and Mary McCoy; son Willy McCoy; granddaughter Ashley Allen and her children, Solomon, and Jezraia, thanked the County for the resolution.

Commissioner Lori Stegmann said it was heartening to see the impact of such standards in other places. “It’s always about having opportunity...and it’s exciting to see a change in culture.’’

“This standard is absolutely essential for us to meet.” Commissioner Sharon Meieran said.

Chair Kafoury said the County has made a start. In the last 10 years, the County interviewed candidates of color in about 75 percent of executive level hires.

“But there is room to improve. Affirming this policy goal as a board holds us accountable as an organization for progress and to communicate in a way that is transparent, systemic and consistent.

“I’m looking forward to integrating the development and implementation of the Gladys McCoy policy into our continued workforce equity efforts.”

Commissioners Sharon Meieran, Loretta Smith, and Lori Stegmann, right, join Chair Deborah Kafoury in approving the new standard..

Commissioner Stegmann high fives the great-grandchildren of Gladys McCoy, Jazraia and Solomon.