State government lags in hiring Asian-American workers

New effort aims to increase numbers.

April 23, 2013

AP/File
File: Illinois governor Pat Quinn. Members of his new Asian-American Advisory Council will meet with agencies Tuesday to address a lack of Asian-American employment.

State agencies are starting to plan how they’ll hire more Asian-American workers. Tuesday, a new Asian-American Advisory Council, handpicked by Governor Pat Quinn, meets with agency representatives to identify barriers to Asian-American employment and promotion in the state labor force.

The council will also chart out how they’ll recruit, retain, and promote more Asian-Americans.

The effort comes from the State Asian-American Employment Plan, passed in the General Assembly and signed by Quinn last year.

The effort is similar to other plans for Hispanics and African-Americans, aimed at ensuring the mix of state employees reflects Illinois’ diversity. A report released in February shows that although Asian-Americans represent about 5 percent of Illinois’ population, they comprise only about 2.5 percent of the state’s workforce.

The report surveying Asian-American employment in state agencies is the first of its kind in Illinois, mandated yearly by the underlying legislation.

“We do want to make sure that the workforce reflects the diversity of the state and that everyone in the state, regardless of their background or language ability, has the ability to access services provided by state government,” said Theresa Mah, Senior Policy Advisor and Director of Asian American Outreach to the Governor.

Mah said the Advisory Council will meet quarterly to follow through with state agencies on the plan’s implementation and results.

“There might be misconceptions about the availability of positions, or just not enough word-of-mouth that there are opportunities,” she said.

The Asian-American Employment Plan was one of several recent political victories by an ethnic group that is growing in both population and political clout in Illinois. Several organizations, including the Asian American Institute and the Pan Asian Voter Empowerment Coalition have lobbied state legislators lately to create an Asian-American caucus in the General Assembly and to consider Asian-American concerns in the legislative redistricting process.

Odette Yousef is WBEZ's North Side bureau reporter. Follow her @oyousef.