Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: When It's More Than A Slogan

I have recently sponsored Senate Bill No. 841. In the formal language that legislators use for a bill, my legislation establishes a Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DDEI) as a principal department in the Executive Branch. My bill then outlines this new department's specific functions, powers, and duties.

The bill's essence would combine various agencies and businesses into an executive-level department focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Diversity is a term that we hear about much more recently than in the past, and I view that as progress. However, from a personal standpoint and as someone engaging every day in the legislative process, it is apparent that we can do more. We have seen positive change, but some would suggest it is still too gradual. Having an executive-level department with its pulse and a directing hand across the entire state of New Jersey with a singular focus makes us more likely to implement change now.

That is why I have introduced my bill by establishing a new, influential, and goal-oriented department that will make a difference to citizens throughout our great state.

If we are to focus and ensure that our workforce is truly as diverse as our entire state, we need to be intentional about it. Aspirational goals are good, but we really need to put intent behind it by creating a department solely focused on making sure that diversity is more than a soundbite and something that we actually embody.

I believe the bill would carry the weight, influence and authority to broadly expand our efforts both in breadth and scale to effect permanent change. In addition, the bill would create a swath of different approaches to ensure that we are indeed a diverse state in every aspect by creating positions that would encourage diverse hiring practices.

This raises the obvious questions of the specific duties the department would fulfill and the guidance it would offer. It is a legitimate question, and what I envision is a department more vigorously engaged in:

  • paid internships, fellowships, and apprenticeships;
  • strengthening partnerships and recruitment with diverse communities and institutions;
  • pay equity;
  • data collection;
  • ensuring accessibility for State employees with disabilities;
  • evaluating the existence of any barriers that formerly incarcerated individuals face in accessing State employment opportunities; and
    the availability and use of diversity training programs.

My plan also calls for the department to assist corporations and not-for-profit entities in better understanding the state's demographics while affording minority-owned and women-owned businesses more opportunities to procure goods and services to the public and private sector.

This bill is not a matter of spreading the wealth aimlessly or unfairly. On the contrary, it extends the opportunity to share a more significant part of the wealth to those who exhibit the traits we admire: determination, intelligence, flexibility, creativity, and foresight. My bill intends to treat everyone fairly in their quest for equality.

In particular, some groups such as minorities and women have been left on the sidelines for far too long. And if this occurs even by benign neglect, that is an uncomfortable and unfair reality. My bill creates a fairer, more representative pathway for all New Jerseyans.

During my tenure as your legislator, I have repeatedly said the bills I support are not giveaways. Rather, I believe that by offering a measurable, fair, transparent, and inviting pathway like my bill, we can improve the lives of our citizens. And when we accomplish that, we have lifted up the lives of all our citizens in the great State of New Jersey.

That's my take, what's yours?