This blog post has been written by Josie B. H. Pickens, Deputy Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously challenged our nation to make real the promises of democracy. Today, as we commemorate his life and legacy, the Mayor’s Office reflects on our work to build an inclusive government and a city where race is not a determinant of success.

On January 6, 2020, Mayor James F. Kenney charged the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) with oversight of comprehensive Citywide strategies to build an inclusive workforce and advance a racial equity framework for action against the systemic factors that perpetuate disparate outcomes for Philadelphia’s residents.

For the Kenney Administration, racial equity is an explicit governing principle—a lens all City departments and agencies must use to assess how their operations, including policies and procedures, impact all Philadelphians.

The path to racial equity within the City government has been led by Nefertiri Sickout, who serves as the City’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. During her tenure, workforce diversity has continued to improve, and she has expanded the Office’s focus on racial equity. She reflects as follows:

“I believe that the work we have started is foundational and critical. We are working to shift the culture of City government and strengthen every department’s capacity to center equity and inclusion. I am so proud to be leading this effort and to facilitate the shared learning that is central to the sustainability of these changes.” – Nefertiri Sickout, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

members of the office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion on a teams call

The ODEI team

The process of building a more equitable Philadelphia is ongoing. ODEI has played a critical role to help create a city where race, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, income, or neighborhood are not a determinant of success and celebrates the progress—and success, in the following core priorities:

Growing diversity and strengthening our workforce

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has worked with departments to build a workforce that reflects the diversity of Philadelphia’s communities-at all leadership levels. Since 2016, the diversity of the City’s exempt workforce has increased by 3.83 percent and the diversity of the executive exempt workforce-employees earning $90,000 or greater-has increased by 7.3 percent.

Getting to the root causes of racial inequity

In partnership with Equity & Results, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is leading a Citywide racial equity strategy. In 2021, ten City departments identified actionable strategies to advance racially equitable impact in the City’s workforce and communities. In 2022, an additional 13 departments will complete plans. Departments have committed to improving hiring, retention and promotion; allocating time and resources to racial equity objectives; and working with historically marginalized communities to create new policy solutions and improved outcomes.

Making budget equity a reality

In 2022, City of Philadelphia departments are intentionally budgeting for equity. As departments prepare their budget requests, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has provided a roadmap to ensure that racial equity is a key line item across the City government.

Getting serious about intersectional equity

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion houses the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Our offices work to ensure that people across identities and abilities are meaningfully and fully included in the life and work of the city.

The Office of LGBT Affairs serves the LGBTQ community through advocacy and inclusion. The Office has collaborated with key City departments to provide expanded sexual orientation and gender identity (SO/GI) options in the City’s human resource system. City employees can voluntarily report their sexual orientation and gender identity so that they are included in the City’s efforts to improve the diversity in its workforce.

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities works to ensure that Philadelphia is a city built on inclusion and belonging every day for all Philadelphians. MOPD has instituted a campaign to create more accessible meeting spaces for City departments. In early 2022, MOPD will launch an interactive map to show where people with disabilities live throughout the city. The map will ensure that residents with disabilities are a leading data source for Departments, City Council, and other community partners.