Stitt's cabinet lacks diversity
Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet is nearly all male and white, falling well short of the state’s demographics, which are becoming more diverse.
Two months into office, Stitt has nominated 14 cabinet positions, with one opening left.
All but three cabinet members are male. None are Hispanic or black.
“Our state doesn’t lack women who can serve in these positions,” said Liz Charles, executive director of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition.
“It feels kind of like another rendition of the good ol’ boys club at a time when more and more people are starting to understand the value and necessity of diversity.”
Former Gov. Mary Fallin — the state’s first and only female governor — also had a male-dominated and mostly white cabinet and board appointments.
However, while Stitt has only nominated three women to his cabinet, each is the first woman to serve in that role.
Stitt nominated Blayne Arthur to serve as secretary of agriculture, Lisa Billy as secretary of Native American affairs and Kayse Shrum as secretary of science and innovation.
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“This provides an opportunity for young girls in Oklahoma to see themselves in many different roles,” said Shrum, who was also the first woman to be a dean of an Oklahoma medical school.
The majority of the governor's staff is also made up of women, including his chief spokeswoman, Donelle Harder.
Harder said she expects gender diversity to increase on the governor’s team as he makes appointments to various state boards and commissions.
On Monday, Stitt announced 15 state agency board member appointments. More than half are women.
“The governor has put a strategic emphasis on making sure that every position we interview for has a diverse pool of applicants,” Harder said.
Melissa Houston, the former chief of staff for former Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is now a senior adviser for Stitt and helping lead his recruitment efforts.
Even though most of Stitt’s cabinet members are male, Houston said that’s not because he is hiring people from his immediate circle.
“The governor likes people who will think different, and his approach to filling the cabinet and some of these key positions has been different,” Houston said.