Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order yesterday that will beef up the State’s diversity training.
“I want to make clear that my administration and I are committed to making Wisconsin more equitable, just, and inclusive place for everyone,” says Evers. “We need to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard and our shared values are represented.”
Evers says the order is aimed at creating a culture of diversity and inclusion among the staff and towards those they serve.
“It’s about seeing the connection between an individual’s identity whether it’s the color of their skin, it’s the gender they identity as, or their abilities, or how they experience life in Wisconsin,” Evers argues. “It’s about listening to that experience, respecting that experience, enhancing that experience. We are taking an approach that ensures no matter who you are or where you live in the state, you have the tools you need to succeed and thrive.”
The executive order requires all state agencies to develop a plan to enforce affirmative action and equal employment opportunities that are already on the books. All state employees will now be required to attend training on inclusion and diversity provided by the Department of Administration. It also creates a diversity advisory board that will report to the governor.
Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes joined Governor Evers at yesterday’s signing. Barnes says that people of color in Wisconsin are trying to succeed within a system that is working against them. He says that Governor Evers’s administration will use diversity and inclusivity to make Wisconsin better.
“[As] a community, it is important to have all of our leaders, all of our elected officials, and all of our stakeholders at the table to make sure equity and inclusion is a part of all the conversations that we have,” Barnes says. “And it’s also important that these values are reflected throughout our administration, through state agencies and employees all throughout Wisconsin.“
Evers and Barnes are not alone in their efforts. Democratic state lawmakers are also championing the cause with a new set of bills.
State Representative Shelia Stubbs of Madison says she wants equity to be a goal of every State Department.
“Yesterday, to have the governor sign the executive order, with me introducing a bill with Black Caucus leaders in the state, colleagues, cabinet members, of the community, it was amazing,” Stubbs says.
Stubbs introduced a bill yesterday that would create five full-time positions to create the new Office for Equity and Inclusion. That office would be part of the state’s Department of Administration. The bill would also establish a new Council for Equity and Inclusion, composed of representatives for each state agency and overseen by the governor.
Stubbs says the group is responsible for writing annual plans to serve underrepresented groups.
“These individuals would be helping crafting equity plans, looking closely and analyzing their departments,” Stubbs says. “They will responsible for helping coordinate equity initiatives around the state. They will help enforce the plans. This is not easy work. This is work that makes people change. This is work that makes people uncomfortable.”
Stubbs says that the members of the council with become the policy experts for their departments. She argues that her bill and the governor’s executive order are important steps in addressing racial inequalities.
“You know achievement gaps, incarceration, poverty–all this stuff is real,” Stubbs says. “And I want to come here because I truly want to address it, and the way I address it is to put this policy here and for the governor to put it as an executive order means it’s real, right? It means you’re going to do something.”
State Senator Lena Taylor of Milwaukee introduced a companion bill into the Senate yesterday. The bills are currently circulating for cosponsors. Stubbs says there are no Republican cosponsors on the assembly bill yet, but she is hopeful and says equity is a bipartisan issue.
The bills will circulate over the next two weeks.