NJ state agency asks employees to avoid speaking at all-white, all-male panels
At least one state agency has a policy aimed at keeping its employees from presenting on panels where only white men will be speaking.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority confirmed its existing Event Process and Governing Policy when asked about it by New Jersey 101.5. The policy has been in effect for more than a year.
“Under most circumstances, NJEDA staff should not participate when the panel/speakers are wholly comprised of white males,” a spokesperson said in a written response. “If staff are asked to participate in such a panel, they should inform the requester of NJEDA’s policy and, if appropriate, may suggest additional, diverse speakers.”
Sending a woman or a non-white male EDA staffer to take part in such a panel would adhere to the policy, the spokesperson confirmed.
It was unclear whether any other state agencies have modeled a similar event policy, as a request for comment from the Governor’s Office was not answered.
Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an Executive Order creating the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.
The mission of the new office was “to dismantle inequity within State government based on race, ethnicity, and other protected characteristics and to expand opportunities for communities of color and other underserved New Jerseyans,” according to a written release.
Jayné Johnson was named as Director of the governor’s new internal Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.
In May 2018, Murphy appointed the state’s first Chief Diversity Officer, Hester Agudosi.
The state Office of Diversity and Inclusion was established in the Department of Treasury, similarly to “ensure diversity in appointments, recruitment and the execution of diversity and inclusion strategies targeted toward greater utilization of minority, women, veteran and LGBT owned businesses,” according to its website.
The NJEDA Executive Team alone is made up of more than half female members and is nearly 20% Black, the spokesperson added.
A listing of the authority’s Executive Committee on the agency’s website includes five white males, four white females, two Black females and a Latino male.
“The NJEDA believes that diversity, equity, and inclusion are inherent to creating a stronger and fairer New Jersey economy and building a diverse workforce increases business performance,” according to its website.
The effort by the independent agency appears to reflect findings of the 2020 New Jersey State of Diversity Survey, in which 74% of New Jerseyans polled agreed they "very strongly believe" employers should play a role in promoting racial equity.
Responses to the survey, commissioned by Taft Communications and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, split sharply by political affiliation, as 87% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans said their employers should play a role in promoting racial equity.
There were only small differences of opinion by race, age or gender, according to a written release of findings.