President Biden and his administration have already made some bold moves indicating that they are committed to doing more than just talking about diversity and inclusion. We might have suspected that would be the case considering his choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate. Since assuming office, he has already issued several executive orders reversing egregious and racist policies of the Trump Administration, such as the order banning some types of diversity and inclusion training in the federal government and the establishment of the counterfactual 1776 Commission. In a Tweet on January 26, Biden wrote, “The fact is systemic racism touches every facet of American life, and everyone – no matter your race or ethnicity -- benefits when we build a more equitable America.”
BCT Partners, a consultancy that provides insights about diverse people that lead to equity, is optimistic about the possibility of far-reaching change that will finally make diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) a reality. Below are three ways that President Biden is proving his commitment to representing all Americans justly and fairly.
1) The most diverse cabinet nominees in history. Avril Haines as the first woman Director of National Intelligence, Michael Regan as the first black administrator of the EPA, Lloyd Austin as the first black Secretary of Defense, Janet Yellen as the first woman to lead the Treasury, Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior and the first Native person to serve in a cabinet, Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation and the first openly gay cabinet secretary. In addition, there are more women and underrepresented minorities who are getting appointed beyond just cabinet-level positions. The administration is transforming the entire federal government's leadership and sending a clear message that all Americans will finally be represented once again.
2) A broader executive order directing agencies to "[advance] racial equity." This directive requires agencies “to identify and fix issues in their policies and programs that prevent all races from being given the same "consistent and systematic fair, just and impartial treatment." The January 20 Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government includes the following measures:
A. Requires all federal agencies to review equity within their ranks and deliver an action plan within 200 days to address unequal barriers to an opportunity found within agency policies and programs
B. Ensures that the federal government interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This order will also direct agencies to take all lawful steps to make sure that federal anti-discrimination statutes that cover sex discrimination prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals.
C. Requires the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in partnership with the heads of agencies, to study new methods for assessing whether agency policies and actions advance equity.
3). Two comprehensive plans to further address injustice and inequities. The 26-page plan outlines how he will combat racial injustice during his administration and an equally robust program for women’s advancement. A few of the commitments in these plans include;
Reintroduction of the Paycheck Fairness Act
Equalization of federal procurement
Investments in homeownership and affordable housing for black, brown, and native families
Create equitable policies in management, training, and higher education opportunities connected to the jobs of the future
Pass paid leave legislation
These bold moves show that Biden is not just simply paying lip service but is committed to making sustainable change. He also sends a clear signal to white male leaders that they should use their long-standing positions of privilege to create equal opportunity for everyone. And while some questioned Biden’s age and whether that would prevent him from making progress on DEI, he has already proven himself to be more willing to tackle the issue when compared to politicians half his age. Maybe President Biden will make ageism the next injustice that he addresses.