A Coordinated Strategy to Advance Racial Equity at Treasury
By: Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo
President Biden has made clear since Day One that advancing racial equity is not just a moral priority for our country—it is also critical to our economic success. Taking steps to unlock the unrealized potential of underserved communities makes our economy stronger and benefits all Americans. This is one reason why the Department of the Treasury is focused on advancing racial equity. This informed our decision to create a dedicated Office of Recovery Programs and has flowed through the policy and operational decisions we’ve made to implement the historic American Rescue Plan. At every step, our commitment to racial equity has been front and center.
We understood that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated systemic inequities in communities of color and low-income communities that existed long before this crisis. As a result, we worked to ensure that the Office of Recovery Programs made equity a foundational priority in the delivery of its programs to both address urgent needs and make lasting investments to mitigate these long-term disparities. This approach has improved the circumstances of vulnerable households across the country and created meaningful opportunities for small businesses, cities, and states across the country.
I’ve highlighted some of Treasury’s successful work to center racial equity in policymaking in a recent September blog post, The American Rescue Plan: Centering Racial Equity in Policymaking.
Secretary Yellen has also made clear that this focus on racial equity must be reflected in all Treasury programs and initiatives. To understand our starting point and opportunities for improvement, Treasury conducted a top-to-bottom racial equity assessment over the first two hundred days of the Biden-Harris Administration. One critical finding of the review was the need to have more resources focused on innovative thinking about how we can use economic policy to advance racial equity.
In response to these findings, today Secretary Yellen will announce the appointment of the Treasury Department’s first-ever Counselor for Racial Equity, Janis Bowdler. As the Department’s first Counselor for Racial Equity, Janis will coordinate and lead efforts across the department to inform our decisions with a focus on racial equity and work to ensure our programs create opportunity in communities of color.
Janis is no stranger to this work. Janis started her career working to advance racial equity on the east side of Cleveland, an hour from her hometown. As a proud Latina, Janis soon joined UnidosUS, formerly the National Council of La Raza, and rose through the ranks to become their Economic Policy Director, focusing on creating economic opportunities for Hispanic families throughout our country. In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis that devastated many families, she advocated for more consumer relief and new protections. Most recently, Janis served as president of the JPMorgan Chase & Co. Foundation, where she worked to address persistent drivers of the racial wealth divide and direct capital to underserved neighborhoods.
Janis is an incredible leader with a track record of impact in communities in need. As Treasury’s Counselor for Racial Equity, she will engage with diverse communities throughout the country and work to identify and mitigate barriers hindering access to benefits and opportunities with the Department. These will include improving access to the Child Tax Credit and understanding how Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions can transform access to capital in communities of color. One of her first goals will be the creation of a Racial Equity Advisory Committee at the Treasury Department. The creation of this committee will provide the Department’s leadership with advice and expert counsel focused on advancing equity for communities that have historically been left behind. Through the membership of the Committee, the Department will benefit from the perspectives and input from a range of individuals, including academics, researchers, industry leaders, community-based leaders and advocates, philanthropists, and others.
Our commitment to a diverse workforce goes beyond the appointment of a Counselor for Racial Equity. Secretary Yellen is committed to building a workforce across Treasury that reflects the diversity of the American people. Currently, the Treasury Department has a historically diverse and inclusive politically appointed workforce, at all levels of leadership. As of today, the Treasury Department’s political appointees reflect America’s diversity, with more than 40% identifying as people of color. Among executive leaders, nearly half of these senior level political appointees identify as people of color. With more people of color and people from different backgrounds and lived experiences at the decision-making and policy-making table, Treasury is better able to make policies and administer programs to reach more American families, businesses, and communities.
These efforts go beyond our diverse, dedicated political appointees—we are also deeply committed to improving diversity and inclusion among the broader career Treasury workforce, where we acknowledge much more work remains to be done. Today, we will also announce the appointment of longtime federal career executive, Ventris Gibson, as Deputy Director of the U.S. Mint. Ms. Gibson brings decades of senior federal service and is a United States Navy veteran. Ms. Gibson will serve as Acting Director of the U.S. Mint, making her the first Black person in history to head this Bureau. Treasury has continued to invest in strengthening recruitment relationships with veterans organizations, disability rights organizations, and Minority Serving Institutions. We have also worked to diversify our workforce pipeline through programs like the Treasury Scholars Program, Employee Resource Groups, and HBCU Job Fairs for students and alumni.
This commitment to working toward a Treasury workforce that reflects the diversity of the American people is critical to our ability to deliver on all of the President’s economic priorities. We are committed to building an economy that works for everyone, and we are excited to have Janis and Ventris join us in doing this work.
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