5 Questions with SaintA Equity Council

collage of a diverse group of people

Last year was the first full year in existence for the SaintA Equity Council. We are a staff workgroup charged with the task of improving the agency’s commitment to an equitable and inclusive workplace.

In 2017, SaintA also named a Chief Equity and Human Capital Officer, a unique position created to lead our agency’s efforts to be fair and impartial for all clients and staff.

1. What is the SaintA Equity Council?

The Equity Council is a group of individuals from a cross-section of the agency who meet monthly for discussion and action. We are led by Kenyatta Sinclair, Chief Equity and Human Capital Officer. We work closely with other SaintA committees and workgroups, including Diversity and Historical Trauma.

Our mission is to improve our agency’s commitment to an equitable and inclusive workplace for staff and clients. We work to ensure that individually, and collaboratively, we are accountable for equity and inclusion. And, we actively work toward an atmosphere of reconciliation and healing if exclusion or injustice are experienced.

Inclusivity means that we consciously build groups that welcome and celebrate differences in age, race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, gender expression, education, socio-economic background, personal history, geographical location, marital status, parental status, and work experiences.

We believe an inclusive environment is one where those we serve and employ are valued, accepted, respected and treated equitably.

2. What does the word equity mean?

Equity refers to being fair and impartial. In our workgroup, it means to achieve a workplace where all staff and clients are treated respectfully and impartially. We work to eliminate bias and other forms of discrimination, whether conscious or implicit.

In addition to inclusivity across age, race, sexual orientation, religion, and socio-economic backgrounds, we also believe in fair and just treatment regardless of immigration status or incarceration (past or present). As an equitable and inclusive workplace, SaintA does not accept or condone actions or words that communicate hate or oppression of any people.

Being equitable also means we are focused on living inclusive lives both at work and play. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, some of us participated in a SaintA Day of Giving, wherein staff can spend up to 8 work hours volunteering in the community.

We volunteered at St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care, where we spent time with adults with dementia and attended their MLK Day celebration. The day’s events also included African dance and drumming with ON FYAH youth, St. Ann daycare children and staff.

3. What topics are discussed at Equity Council?

In our first year, Equity Council created the SaintA Equity and Inclusion Statement. The statement identifies priorities, including:

  • Increase inclusivity and diversity amongst staff, leadership and SaintA Board of Directors
  • Provide an open and inclusive environment for staff and the families we serve
  • Enhance diversity among service providers and vendors
  • Continue community engagement with historically traumatized populations
  • Begin reconciliation efforts on issues that disproportionately affect historically traumatized populations

At Equity Council, we address such important topics as implicit bias, microaggressions and white privilege. We have sponsored speakers including Dr. Pat McManus of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, who addressed historical trauma through a uniquely Milwaukee lens. Many members of the Equity Council participated in On the Table discussions last fall where the topic was implicit bias in the child welfare system.

In addition, we have also started our first Affinity Group, geared toward ensuring equity for LGBT individuals.

4. How does SaintA Equity Council enhance the work environment?

Inclusion is a very conscious and mindful practice. It respects all cultures, behaviors, and beliefs, and requires a humble curiosity about differences in our diverse cultures and backgrounds. We do not yet live in a post-racial society and Equity Council helps staff learn to recognize the implications of historical trauma and present-day racism.

Equity Council is a safe, one-stop place for staff and supervisors to come with questions, make suggestions, learn about, or raise issues related to equity and inclusion.

We also work to keep the agency accountable for its equity and inclusion action steps, such as:

  • Hiring and retaining an inclusive and diverse workforce
  • Ensuring agency policies and performance expectations reflect equity and inclusivity best practices
  • Recruiting and retaining licensed African American foster parents
  • Shedding light on implicit bias, especially within child welfare and related services
  • Providing oversight of related groups, Diversity Committee and Historical Trauma Workgroup
  • Shoring up emergency response protocol to aid the agency in responding to current events such as the Charlottesville uprising in Aug., 2017

5. Where can you learn more about equity-related issues?

If you want to learn more about some of the issues we currently address in Equity Council check out authors such as Dr. Joy DeGruy, Michelle Alexander, Douglass Blackmon, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Shaun King, and Tim Wise. We can also recommend the documentary films 13th and Milwaukee 53206.


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