Oregon State Diversity Conference
Sept. 14, 2016
Good morning, and thank you for all being here today.
As state employees, it’s a rare opportunity for so many of you to come together from different agencies to collectively talk about equity, diversity, and inclusion. This is not only an investment in you, but in the future of state government – one that enables all of us to move Oregon forward and make ours a home in which all Oregonians can thrive.
Before I share some thoughts on how our work in state government is inextricably tied to improving equity, diversity, and inclusion, I wanted to catch you up on exciting additions to my team since I spoke with you last year.
I was pleased to appoint Serena Stoudamire Wesley as Director of Equity and Community Engagement to lead my Office of Diversity and Inclusion/Affirmative Action. I was also excited to bring on Nakeia Daniels as Affirmative Action Manager. Nakeia, who is here today, has only been here for several months and has already met with many agencies to discuss their Affirmative Action Plans.
One of my asks of Serena and Nakeia was to work with the Department of Administrative Services, and other state agencies, to find ways agencies can diversify our state workforce by doing a better job of recruiting and retaining workers. Some of the questions we’re asking are: Who are we doing outreach to about employment? How deeply are we going into communities to do outreach? Is there equitable access to employment for the blind or people with disabilities? Are we intentional about our hiring from the beginning?
It is important we do this work so state government reflects the people and experiences of Oregon. We’re not doing this to just meet parity, or to just check off boxes. We’re doing this because I recognize the need for more diversity in our leadership and managerial positions. We’re doing this because the benefits of having a state workforce that represents a variety of communities, cultures, and backgrounds are twofold.
The public we serve benefits when state employees – doing everything from direct services to policymaking – use their cultural or linguistic backgrounds or diverse experiences to help inform the work they’re doing. These state employees also serve as assets to colleagues by tapping into their important lenses on the world that help to inform how state government does business.
As I said to you last year, I, as a white woman, don’t know what it’s like to face discrimination based on my race or skin color. But I do know what it feels like to be ostracized for being in a relationship with a woman and face backlash for my relationship. I am committed to creating a more inclusive work environment for each and every state employee, regardless of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, or disability.
I want state government to be the destination workplace for Oregonians, and for our agencies to reflect the diversity of our people. Holding directors accountable for manager and supervisor effectiveness in achieving affirmative action, diversity and inclusion, and equal employment opportunity is how I will do that. Here’s why: It is good for our state workforce, it is good for policymaking, and it is good for the the Oregonians we serve.
The conversations you have today may be new or uncomfortable, but I hope that opening yourselves to new ideas will be beneficial to you and the work you do. Let’s keep the conversation going.
Thank you for all you do for Oregonians.