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New Columbus Diversity Officer Takes Up Task Of Expanding Inclusion Efforts

Columbus' second Chief Diversity Officer, Beverly Stallings-Johnson, started in February 2020.
Debbie Holmes
Columbus' second Chief Diversity Officer, Beverly Stallings-Johnson, started in February 2020.

Only a few weeks into her job as the city’s second-ever chief diversity officer, Beverly Stallings-Johnson says Columbus is getting closer to its goal of a workforce that reflects the diversity of the community.

Stallings-Johnson says over the past four years, Columbus has made improvements in its number of contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses. 

“Forty-seven percent is incredible, and our office is poised to even do further in terms of supplier diversity,” she says.

In 2019, the city's workforce was 20% African Americans and 27% women.

“We’d like to grow the opportunities for our workforce inside of the city,” Stallings-Johnson says. “And I think that working with our department of human resources, as well as working with the civil service, the police department, we’re all taking a look at where we have gaps and we’re starting to address those.”

Before her appointment to the position, Stallings-Johnson served as an equal employment opportunity officer with Xerox. She says that post provided her with a unique perspective on cultural diversity in the workplace.

“Understanding different cultures and different countries made us look at the opportunities that were within,” Stallings-Johnson says. “And with that understanding brought more opportunities, and I think the same thing could happen for the city of Columbus.”

Stallings-Johnson takes over a year and a half after the resignation of Steve Francis,the first director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Francis’ office had overseen a studythat provided faulty data to a consulting firm examining whether Columbus discriminated against minority- and women-owned businesses when it awarded contracts.  More than half of the office's employees lost their jobs in 2018 as the department rearranged positions.

In 2019, Columbus foundblack men and women are under-represented in Columbus' contracts for construction and professional services like law and architecture.

“My goal is to strive to ensure that the diversity of our city’s supply chain and work force is reflective of the residents that we serve,” Stallings-Johnson says.

She also supports a proposal by Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan to reexamine the city's banon officers who wear head coverings for religious reasons.

“Diversity is what makes us stronger, so I can’t see the negative in that,” says Stallings-Johnson. “But what I can see is there’s an opportunity for people to be more open and embracive of the cultural differences that naturally come when we have different people participate.”

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.