“Diversity & Inclusion in State Lobbying Just Makes Cents,” INFLUENCE Magazine

“Diversity & Inclusion in State Lobbying Just Makes Cents,” INFLUENCE Magazine

The lobbying world could potentially face one of the most challenging sessions in the history of the profession. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims of police shootings, the ongoing Black Lives Matters protests, and the passing of Congressman John Lewis and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have put a spotlight on the need to diversify lobbying teams to better address issues and reflect today’s society.

As corporations across the country prepare to manage the challenges ahead, incorporating a strategy that includes diversity and inclusion will increase opportunities for growth and limit the risks and pitfalls that come with a narrow understanding, devoid of cultural nuances.

Diversity can set the stage for a coordinated, strategic response among legislators and leaders to ensure a strong outcome for clients. In fact, a recent study by McKinsey & Company, the noted management consulting firm, suggests firms that exhibit gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to outperform their less diverse competitors and produce better results.

Governors and state legislators establish budgets and taxes that pay for state services. They appoint judges, regulate businesses, and shape policies that impact the administration of justice. Who benefits from the money, laws, and regulations often comes down to the effectiveness of individual lobbyists and their firm’s lobbying strategies.

Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans are poorly represented as registered lobbyists in Florida.  African Americans account for less than 2% of registered lobbyists and only seven are women.

The issues of social justice, race and pandemic response are all intertwined. The battles for power and funding will be fought not only on “K Street” in the nation’s capital, but in state capitols throughout the country.

In Florida and across the nation, the communities that have been the hardest hit by COVID-19 are overwhelmingly minority. When additional pandemic relief becomes available, be it in the form of funding or a vaccine, a positive outcome for these communities depends on a diverse advocacy approach.

In a post-pandemic world, successful corporate leaders will re-examine their advocacy strategies and include diversity and equity in their messaging, in how they interact with legislators and in identifying community partners. This assures that a client’s message aligns with lawmakers and the affected communities.

Corporations must get involved to create and hire diverse lobbying teams. In 2019, I co-founded the National Black Professional Lobbyists Association. We provide mentoring and networking and have been partnering with diversity and inclusion leaders to ensure Black government affairs professionals are included in efforts to expand the perspectives communicated to state government leaders.

A diverse team ensures a broader understanding of the client’s challenges. With a broader understanding, a more successful and financially beneficial result can be achieved. Diversity is not just good for business; it’s good for the bottom line.

Yolanda Cash Jackson is a Shareholder of Becker and Poliakoff, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and has served on the firm’s management committee since 2010.  Ms. Jackson is also a founder of the National Black Professional Lobbyists Association.

Reprinted with permission from the INFLUENCE Magazine.