The Biden Administration has a Black woman as its latest official Cabinet member, who’s serving in a critical role.
The Senate confirmed Shalonda D. Young as director of the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday, making her the first Black woman to lead the office. The vote came more than a year after she was appointed as acting director of the office, according to CNN.
Young previously served on the staff of the House Appropriations Committee for 14 years, giving her an insider’s view into how budget proposals are crafted, negotiated through Congress and make their way to the president’s desk. But it wasn’t until another Capitol Hill insider, Neera Tanden, was nominated and then withdrawn due to lack of support in the Senate, that Young got her shot.
The OMB post isn’t as high-profile as many other Cabinet positions, but it punches above its weight in importance inside the federal government.
Young’s confirmation, as well, is viewed as critical to other Black staffers on Capitol Hill.
According to a 2020 study from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, though people of color make up 40% of the population in the US, they only hold 11% of senior Senate staff positions on the Hill.
Just 3% of top Senate staffers are Black, according to the report.
Young’s rise is particularly remarkable given the barriers to entry for marginalized groups, staffers say. Mia Keeys, chief of staff for Rep. Robin Kelly, Democrat of Illinois, got her first role on the Hill through the Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars Program run by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a now discontinued initiative.
Including Vice President Kamala Harris, Young becomes the seventh Black member of the Biden Cabinet. The others are: Dr. Cecilia Rouse, chair of the council on economic advisers, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.