Philadelphia names new chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Thursday, May 20, 2021
Philly names new Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer
Neferteri Sickout never thought her new job would be easy, but the timing of when she started made it extra hard.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Neferteri Sickout never thought her new job would be easy, but the timing of when she started made it extra hard.

She was named Philadelphia's acting chief officer of diversity, equity and inclusion in May of 2020. This week, that job title became permanent.

"Being in this work allows me the opportunity to take a look at some of those policies and procedures and dismantle them," said Sickout who has a background in both law and community-based advocacy.

Mayor Jim Kenney established the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in 2016. Sickout says inequities have always existed in Philadelphia, but COVID really exposed them.

"When the pandemic landed, it just broke open a lot of those pain points for our communities," she said.

Part of her job now is increasing access to vaccines for all communities.

"Vaccinating those who may not have the same access and opportunity to get to the vaccine. Particularly, I would emphasize for people with disabilities as well," she said.

To tackle disparities, Kenney issued an executive order that every city department in Philadelphia examine their services and practices in an effort to root out policies and procedures that lead to inequities.

"Ten departments are working on it this year. Then we'll have another ten next year," said Sickout.

Some of those departments have already identified inequities in hiring. And jobs could be the key to stopping what Sickout says two of the most far-reaching problems in the city: poverty and gun violence.

"People of color and youth have access to jobs, so they have the opportunity to have a better life," she said.

Sickout is also working with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw to identify the issues that are making it difficult for the department to recruit a diverse pool of candidates.

Sickout says the goal is to figure out where the police department is losing qualified candidates in the application process and then fix that issue.

With calls for justice growing louder over the past year, Sickout knows there's a lot of work ahead.

"It's just challenging overall," she said, "but it also makes the work that much more important."