Editor's Note: Ask an ICMA Manager, Ask an Equity Officer series is a monthly blog series where ICMA asks a current or former equity officer and/or local government professional tasked with equity work to answer a question on an equity issue facing local government.

During a few of UNITE’s equity and inclusion sessions, we noticed some of the questions typed into the chat box of the Live Q&A portion couldn’t get answered because we ran out of time. So, we decided to ask an equity officer!

Send questions to SpeakUp@icma.org, and we will ask an equity officer to answer!

Check out our glossary of terms.

What advice would you give to white leaders who are going to get some things wrong as they lead their organizations and communities through the equity journey?

  • Undoing hundreds of years of injustice and inequities will neither be fast nor comfortable. As long as white leaders have both intention and effort to advance and promote racial equity, any “mistake” made can be treated as a learning opportunity. An opportunity does even more to help move forward. Listen and believe people, particularly BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), when leading this work. Educate yourself – read, listen to, and view materials primarily produced by BIPOC. I always ask (or want to ask) white leaders who want to do this work their authentic reason WHY.

How do you involve public sector partners (contractors and consultants) in the conversation and in advancing equity and diversity?

  • Who are the partners? If the partners are BIPOC, then I’d focus heavily on continuing to support and promote them. If the partners are not BIPOC and have repeatedly been gaining contracts and consultancy opportunities from your organization, then talk about how that continues to perpetuate inequities and potentially goes against your value as an organization.

Our county just hired its first equity and inclusion officer. County employees and staff are on board but we have received negative feedback from the community about this particular position. How do we explain that the decision to hire someone for this position is good for moving our county forward?

  • Support your equity and inclusion officer as much as you can – especially if he or she is a BIPOC, woman, LGBTQ+, religious minority, and/or someone with a disability. Go back to why you created the position and what your learning curve looked like. Be authentic and vulnerable, and share that with the community. Most folks feel that advancing equity means those with privilege have to give up what they’ve got. Address such misconceptions!

  • Be open to the reality that this one person is not going to be able to address inequities on his or her own. Everyone (especially the community) will need to come together to make your community a better place so that EVERYONE can benefit.

  • Unpack the negative feedback. Is the negative feedback coming from a small minority of folks who are always going to be against this effort or is it a majority of your community members? What are the minoritized and marginalized groups saying?

Thank you to ICMA Equity Officer Cohort participant Manisha Paudel, equity coordinator, Des Moines, Iowa




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