(New York, NY) — Today, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, joined by a broad coalition of civic and faith leaders, and owners of minority- and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) called on the City Charter Revision Commission to install a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) in City Hall and every City agency through revisions to the City Charter. The CDO would play a critical role by expanding opportunities for M/WBEs who seek to do business with the City, helping the City attract and retain diverse talent, and bringing attention to disparities that impact women and people of color in local government and the city economy.
The Charter, which is the City’s governing document, is undergoing its first full-scale review since 1989. In recent years, the Charter has been increasingly unable to address persistent disparities faced by women and people of color in the City workforce, its supply chain, and the broader economy.
“New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world, but our own government is stuck in the status quo of exclusion. We’re not giving minority and women-owned businesses a fair shot at doing business with the City, and it’s creating an unbelievable disparity. That’s why we’re calling on the Charter Revision Commission to write equity into our City’s constitution and create a Chief Diversity Officer in City Hall and every City agency,” said Comptroller Stringer. “To build a truly five borough economy where every community is growing, we need someone at the top to deliver real results. We cannot perpetuate a system that fails to build wealth in communities that have historically been left behind. We need this change from the Charter Commission, now.”
Creating a Fairer City
Comptroller Stringer’s proposal would create a Chief Diversity Officer position inside City Hall, reporting directly to the Mayor, and within each City agency to function as the City’s executive level diversity and inclusion strategist. A CDO for New York City would drive the inclusion of people of color and women across government, track and oversee the City’s M/WBE programs, and determine whether the agencies’ daily practices are equitable.
Enshrining the CDO in the City Charter would help ensure their success and sustainability. As the City’s constitution, the Charter is a statement about the priorities of the local government and a foundation for its policies. By grounding oversight of the M/WBE program and executive employment disparities in the Mayor’s Cabinet, and doing the same at each agency, these reforms would demonstrate the importance of women, people of color, and other historically disadvantaged groups having a seat at the table and provide a single venue for New Yorkers to hold City officials accountable for meeting their goals.
Persistent Disparities in City Spending
Nearly 540,000 minority-owned businesses and 413,000 women-owned businesses employ more than 600,000 New Yorkers, creating jobs and economic opportunity in every corner of the city. Despite the substantial contributions made by women and people of color in the workforce, these businesses are vastly excluded from the City’s spending on goods and services, adding to persistent disparities in job access and wages.
New York City agencies spend almost $20 billion a year on everything from pens and paper to consulting services and construction, yet less than 5 percent of those contracts are awarded to M/WBEs. In 2018, the City received a “D+” letter grade in Comptroller Stringer’s annual Making the Grade report which grades City agencies on their spending with M/WBEs – for the third year in a row. This thwarts the City’s ability to fully invest in its businesses, build wealth in local communities, and foster competitive procurements that ensure taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently.
“We know creating this position will work citywide because it has worked at the Comptroller’s Office, with engagement and performance drastically improving,” said Comptroller Stringer. “It’s time for us to use our voices as New Yorkers and call on the Charter Revision Commission to put this critical proposal on the ballot.”
“The Chief Diversity Officer is an idea whose time has come. New Yorkers need an individual charged with opening doors of opportunity for the previously qualified but locked out,” said Reverend Jacques Andre DeGraff, Canaan Baptist Church.
“We can’t rely on politically motivated good wishes,” said Mount Nebo Baptist Church pastor Rev. Dr. Johnny Green. “We demand enforcement of already existing diversity requirements, and that’s exactly what Comptroller Scott Stringer is proposing.”
“We need to put equity in New York City’s Charter because the reality is, without a Chief Diversity Officer we can’t tackle the disparities in our City or our economy,” said Rev. David Brawley, St. Paul Community Baptist Church. “New Yorkers deserve more – they deserve equity, justice, and a level playing field. I stand with Comptroller Stringer and this coalition to call on the Charter Revision Commission to put the CDO on the ballot.”
“We can’t allow New York City’s diversity to be ignored anymore. A Chief Diversity Officer would make sure that diversity and inclusion are always in focus,” said Bishop Orlando Findlayter, New Hope Christian Fellowship Church. “This proposal must be brought forward by the Charter Revision Commission – it’s too important for our community, our city, and our economy as a whole.”
“New York City is built on diversity – our economy, our city government, our culture all depend on it. Diverse communities power New York. Women power New York. And a Chief Diversity Officer in City Hall, every City agency, and in the City Charter would help us live up to that basic fact,” said Quenia Abreu, President, NY Women’s Chamber of Commerce. “Comptroller Stringer’s report have laid out the disparities in our City – and the solution. The Charter Revision Commission need to make this change now and bring a Chief Diversity Officer to the ballot.”
“A focus on diversity and inclusion must be integrated into all facets of the city’s work if we are to move the needle and achieve the ambitious procurement goals set for minority- and women-owned businesses. It cannot be an afterthought,” said Jessica Walker, President and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “The best strategy is to replacetag professionals who are wholly focused on improving these outcomes, have invaluable expertise to share and will be held to account.”
“We call for this important change to the NYC City Charter to ensure that Diversity and Inclusion is woven into the fabric of bring about greater value to the procurement process by engaging women and minority owned businesses. MWBE are critical to the innovation and value pipeline of making smart procurement decisions of goods and services for all New Yorkers. A diversity and inclusion officer at ever department starting with City Hall will ensure transparency, accountability and access for MWBEs,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, CEO YWCA USA and former National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency at the US Department of Commerce.
A public petition in support of placing the Chief Diversity Officer on the November 2019 ballot is available here.
To read Comptroller Stringer’s full report on recommendations to the Charter Commission, click here.
NYC Comptroller's Full Press Release