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Colorado Governor Orders More Workplace Diversity

Gov. Jared Polis has signed an executive order to prioritize diversity and equity within the state workforce. The move is the first step in improving what critics have called a problem within the Polis administration.

The Colorado state capitol.
Damon Shaw/Shutterstock
Last month, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order that requires state agencies to develop plans on how they will improve diversity, equity and inclusion in Colorado’s workforce. The goal is to create workplaces that “ensure that all voices are heard so that a person’s future success is not determined by their identity,” according to the order.

Last year, Colorado asked its 30,000 state employees if they thought leadership was making diversity, equity and inclusion a priority within their workplace; just over half of the respondents said yes. Polis has focused on improving diversity since he took office in January 2019 and had plans to enact this executive order in March, but it was delayed due to the coronavirus.

State agencies are required to not only develop long-term strategic plans that promote inclusive workplace cultures, but also to report upon the plans’ progress after implementation. Additionally, it instructs the state to review all buildings, systems, procedures and websites for accessibility and address any inequities that may be posed by contracting barriers. Finally, the executive order mandates that all state workers, including supervisors and executive leaders, receive trainings on equity, diversity and inclusion.

“We don’t just embrace, we celebrate the idea that no two people are exactly alike,” Polis said before signing the executive order. “And those differences are a source of strength.”

Polis is Colorado’s first Jewish governor and the U.S.’s first openly gay governor, but his administration has struggled with inclusivity. Polis has been criticized for the lack of diversity within his administration. “We’re doing okay,” says Kara Veitch, executive director of Colorado’s Department of Personnel and Administration. “I think we can do better.”

According to Colorado’s 2018-2019 workforce report, the average salary for a Black, Latino or Native American worker is nearly $10,000 less than that of their white counterparts and the average starting salary is approximately $5,000 less than that of white new hires. The new executive order will begin to address these discrepancies through its plans to build anti-discriminatory workplaces with “equitable hiring, compensation, and retention practices.”

“While we celebrate and acknowledge today’s signing of the executive order, it’s also important to acknowledge that today is a first step,” said Web Brown, the head of Colorado’s Office of Health Equity. “We have a lot of work to do to make ‘Colorado For All’ a reality.”

Zoe is the digital editor for Governing.
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