Jim Kenney Taps Philly’s 1st-Ever Chief Diversity Officer

Nolan Atkinson Jr. will work to increase diversity in the divided public workforce. Kenney also named his ethics appointees.
Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia’s public workforce does not reflect the diversity of the city. Thirteen percent of city residents are Latino, but only 5 percent of city employees are Latino; likewise, though 7 percent of city residents are Asian, only 2 percent of city employees are Asian. Additionally, people of color and women are underrepresented in the best-paying positions in local government.

On Tuesday, Mayor-elect Jim Kenney announced that he is tapping Nolan Atkinson, Jr. to become the city’s first-ever Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to address “the barriers that keep the city’s workforce racially and economically divided.”

Atkinson is an attorney who has worked for years help make the legal profession in Philadelphia more diverse. Per Kenney’s team:

Atkinson currently serves as the first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of the Philadelphia office of Duane Morris LLP. Atkinson is also the former chair and a founder of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, Inc., a consortium of law firms and corporations committed to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in Philadelphia’s larger law firms. Atkinson has won many accolades for his work in diversity and inclusion, including the inaugural Diversity Leadership Award from the American Bar Association. Atkinson has also served in government. In 2008, he was appointed to Mayor Nutter’s Advisory Task Force on Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform, and he served for twelve years as a Commissioner of Lower Merion Township.  Atkinson also successfully petitioned to have his great-grandfather posthumously admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar, a right he was refused in 1847 due to racial discrimination.

Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for Kenney, said that this position is the city’s first-ever Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer “with this much reach and seniority.” She added that “there may have been people with similar titles who reported to HR in the past.”

Kenney also announced on Tuesday that Ellen Kaplan will be his Chief Integrity Officer and Amy Kurland will remain in her position as Inspector General. Kaplan previously served as the vice president and policy director for the good-government group Committee of Seventy.