Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Cabinet ought to reflect the diverse backgrounds and experiences of Oklahomans. Sadly, it does not.
Among the 15 positions, only three are held by women. Two are tribal members, including Lisa Billy as the Native American Affairs director. Stitt is also a member of the Cherokee Nation.
None are black, Hispanic, Asian, multiracial, Muslim, Jewish or openly LGBTQ.
The largely white, Christian, straight, middle-aged, predominantly male Cabinet does not represent Oklahoma.
In an interview with Tulsa World reporter Barbara Hoberock, the governor’s chief of staff, Michael Junk, cited funding limitations in recruiting and said Stitt was looking for the most-qualified people.
We recognize that finding diversity can be challenging. Oklahoma companies and nonprofits struggle with the issue too, but it has to be part of the agenda of any group wanting to make true change in today’s world.
Recruiting for the Cabinet was made more challenging in general because many of the jobs were initially unpaid, but we don’t accept that as a rational for a homogenous result. We don’t accept that capable people come from one narrow demographic that has traditionally held power.
Stitt has appointed people who have been successful in private business, a standard we understand although it has weaknesses. There are hundreds of prosperous and qualified people — from the business world and elsewhere — who come from different racial, ethnic, religious, gender and sexual orientation backgrounds.
Several institutions including Leadership Oklahoma and Leadership Tulsa have trained and provided a diverse network for leaders across the state.
Having diversity around the state’s most influential table is not about public relations. Varied voices are crucial when deciding policies and laws affecting Oklahomans, particularly in groups historically marginalized. From law enforcement to education to health care, every issue has a matrix of perspectives that should be heard.
Stitt has had nearly a year to build his Cabinet. We are disappointed he fell short of finding a diverse group and encourage him to make a more purposeful effort moving forward.