St. Thomas and local community members gathered Wednesday for a Forum on Workplace Inclusion Diversity Insights Breakfast led by St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and members of his staff.

Carter and his staff members shared strategies St. Paul has employed to diversify its workforce, retain people of color and women, and to authentically build relationships with community organizations through a lens of equity and inclusion.

“People say if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others. What if I want to go fast and far?” Carter asked. “We talk about building a city that works for all of us … and the only way to do that is to give all of us a chance to build.”

Carter discussed his administration’s emphasis on engagement with its citizens, citing the two-months long dialogue between the St. Paul Police Department and the community, the process of bringing in some 300 community members to help with the hiring process of Carter’s cabinet, and the opening of the city’s budget process to community input.

“Our goal is to engage people. Through doing that, we’ve learned [to look through] a different lens on our city,” he said. “The dreams we learn through our city, for our community … are bigger and bolder than we dare to dream from city hall. Staying connected with the people we’re here to represent keeps us connected to that bigger vision.”

Carter also talked about the need for elected officials to focus on asking the right questions (“Question marks are, by far, the superior leadership tool,” he said) to get the right answers for a community.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter speaks Oct. 31 at a Forum on Workplace Inclusion Diversity Insights Breakfast in Minneapolis.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter speaks Oct. 31 at a Forum on Workplace Inclusion Diversity Insights Breakfast in Minneapolis.

Developing an equity framework

Toni Newborn, J.D., St. Paul’s chief equity officer and an adjunct professor at St. Thomas’ School of Law, and Andrea L Turner, J.D., St. Paul’s chief human resources officer, talked about the city’s development of an equity framework, or equity ecosystem, over the past four years.

“It’s focusing on and lifting up race to change our policies and procedures, to ensure there’s a lens in which we look through our work,” Newborn said. “We see equity as a lens in which we view our work. Are we meeting people where they’re at … to build a St. Paul that works for all of us.”

Areas of focus in that effort have included community driven hiring process for its leadership, community engagement, training and development, and recruitment strategies. Tools that have been implemented include racial equity impact assessments, work plans and action plans, staff trainers, and an equity framework within the budget process. Each of the city’s 14 operating departments also has an equity change team assigned to look through their work through an equity lens.

Detailing the implementation process, Turner described it in six steps:

  • Developed a recruiting plan and established recruitment goals;
  • Focused on improving the candidate experience;
  • Increased visibility of the city’s hiring process;
  • Presented the data to department directors quarterly;
  • Tracked promotion data;
  • And revisited policies, procedures and practices.

“This Diversity Insights Breakfast was a wonderful opportunity to experience how one of our leading cities is meeting the challenge of putting workplace diversity and inclusion concepts into action,” said The Forum Executive Director Steve Humerickhouse.

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