Celebrating Women's History

Indiana’s chief equity, inclusion officer takes her place in governor’s cabinet

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana’s first chief equity, inclusion and opportunity officer has officially taken her place in Gov. Eric Holcomb’s cabinet.

Holcomb announced plans to create the position back in August. Not only is this position a first for the state, but a woman is leading the charge.

When the governor spoke about this position, he said the world was also dealing with a virus of racism. The protests last summer helped move this along. But the governor said it’s been a long time coming to get the house — the state of Indiana in order.

Indiana is working to improve equity, inclusion and opportunity. And Kerrah Herring represents the first steps in a long process to meet that goal.

“I am not under any disillusion that this will be a walk in the park,” she said. “There will be uncomfortable conversations. There will be challenges and there will be disagreements around the topics that we encounter.”

We didn’t know who it would be when the governor said this months ago.

“As well as drive systemic change to remove hurdles in the government workplace and the services we provide. And second, help them deliver their own strategic plans to remove all such barriers.”

The plan was to hire someone — Herring just happens to be a woman. But she said George Floyd’s death, her background in equity work, but also her role as a woman, mother and Black woman that pushed her to apply.

“It really tugged at my heart strings. When he talked about the importance of looking at the root causes of disparities within our state. Not just reacting to the symptoms.”

She said as a state, the number shows disparities still exist in areas of policing, education and more. And the data supports it. But so does the history of how certain systems have been set up and the impact on minority communities.

“We have to acknowledge that and we have to say ‘What can we do as a state to move forward?” she said.

Seeing the data shift, she said, is going to be a major step in seeing some type of transformation.

“This is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. But the second thing I think will be very telling is the willingness of individuals to sit down across lines of difference to come together to make a difference.”

Herring said right now the plan is to develop a series of short-term and long-term sustainable goals. But in addition to that, she’s asking Hoosiers to come to the conversations with an open mind.

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