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Blinken appoints chief diversity and inclusion officer after 10-month vacancy

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has appointed a new chief diversity and inclusion officer at the State Department.

The position has been vacant for 10 months, but the department announced Tuesday that Zakiya Carr Johnson will serve as the next chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO).

Johnson will replace acting CDIO Conny Mayer.

“American diplomacy can only succeed if it fully harnesses all of the talent that our nation has to offer. That is why I created the position of CDIO to elevate DEIA within our organization and give it the dedicated senior-level attention that it deserves,” Blinken said in a statement, referring to the acronym that stands for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

“Over the past three years, the Department of State has made significant progress on this front but there remains work to be done,” he continued. “We will continue to pursue this mission aggressively, because recruiting, nurturing, and promoting the most capable workforce possible is critical to our national security.”

Johnson has an extensive background in influencing gender and racial equity policy.

She founded Odara Solutions and co-founded the Black Women Disrupt Initiative. She has also served as a senior adviser and director of the Race, Ethnicity and Social Inclusion Unit in the State Department and as co-chair for the White House Inter-Agency Committee on Gender-Based Violence Monitoring and Evaluation.

“Her previous work promoting entrepreneurship and access to opportunity for underrepresented populations, as well as her commitment to inclusive leadership make us stronger, smarter, and more innovative,” Blinken added.

But, Johnson’s appointment comes at a time of increased limitations on diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

In March, the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) was disbanded as part of a government spending bill. Republican lawmakers in more than 30 states have introduced or passed more than 100 bills this legislative session to either restrict or regulate DEI initiatives, according to an NBC News analysis.

But Blinken said the State Department must commit to DEI in order to create an inclusive workplace that can attract and retain the nation’s top talent.

“When the people making decisions on behalf of the American people don’t reflect the full diversity of our nation, we all lose, and our national security is weaker,” Blinken said. “Together, we will ensure the United States is best positioned to meet the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly complex world.”

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