Earlier this fall the Democratic firm Left Hook, along with eight other partners, launched a first of its kind fellowship program with the goal of developing a more diverse pipeline of talent in the political campaign industry.
“Over the past few months building out this fellowship program, I’ve lost count of how many people have reached out to say this is something that we recognize as a challenge and want to address,” Shripal Shah, a partner at Left Hook, said in a recent interview with C&E. “So I do think we’ve made a lot of progress in that space. Now it’s just a matter of taking that next step and actually implementing programs and processes that can help us get better on this front.”
While the program, which employs a group of fellows who will gain exposure to varying parts of the industry in 10-week rotations across different firms, is a great first step, Shah said one of the longer-term goals is to push the industry to take a closer look at its hiring and recruiting practices.
“We still don’t post a lot of jobs for for high ranking or high senior level roles on these campaigns,” said Shah. “They’re almost entirely done through an individual’s network. And I think that’s something that we need to think long and hard about.”
If campaigns, groups, and consulting firms on the left aren’t publicly soliciting resumes for their top-line job openings, the net result is the candidates that come through are filtered almost entirely through those networks, “and as we’ve all seen, a lot of our individual networks lack diversity,” noted Shah.
Another other piece of the puzzle, according to Shah, is being more open to considering job candidates who may not have what political hiring professionals would consider a more traditional career progression: deputy press secretary to press secretary to comms director, for instance.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only way to find somebody who has the kind of strategic experience that’s necessary to fill that role,” he said. “There are people from other industries who in recent years have realized they want to get more involved in the advocacy and political realm that might come with a more corporate-style background, but are very diverse and can take those skills and translate them to to our world.”