Survey taps into Santa Rosa employees’ perceptions of diversity issues
More than two-thirds of Santa Rosa city staff who participated in a recent survey are comfortable talking about diversity with coworkers, though they’re more divided on whether city departments are taking concrete action to improve workplace equity.
When looking at improving the diversity of senior leadership within the city, where 70% of executive staff are white and 60% are female, only about a third of surveyed employees said they agreed Santa Rosa is committed to the effort.
Among fire and police personnel, workers were more likely to agree with statements that indicate their departments meet the mark on hiring and recruitment efforts of historically underrepresented groups compared to statements that suggest changes need to be made, a sampling of the Santa Rosa Fire and Santa Rosa Police departments found.
The data was compiled by Seed Collaborative, an Inglewood-based consulting firm hired by Santa Rosa in December to develop a citywide equity plan as it seeks to ensure equal treatment, opportunities and representation for all regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or other identifying factors. It was based on a voluntary survey taken by 525 city employees, or just over half of the city’s total workforce, spanning various departments, demographic groups and experience levels. Participants had the option to take the survey anonymously.
The survey results, which were presented to the Santa Rosa City Council late last month, were also paired with summaries of the main themes identified by Seed Collaborative in one-on-one interviews about diversity, equity and inclusion with a cross section of city staff, including police and fire department personnel, as well as part of the Santa Rosa City Council and community leaders.
Among the top-line items were that some women reported experiencing acts of exclusion, inappropriate jokes or comments, or microaggressions — commonplace slights that are sometimes unintentional and cause harm to members of marginalized groups.
External factors like the lack of diversity within the city itself — where more than two-thirds of residents are white — and the region’s high housing costs intensified recruitment and hiring challenges, Seed Collaborative found.
While perspectives of diversity, equity and inclusion were positive among city staff in general, understanding and satisfaction of departmental diversity, equity and inclusion practices and policies varied, the consultants said.
“Micro-cultures develop and as a result, diversity, equity and inclusion is playing out relative to how all those different (organizational) cultures are operating,” said Seed Collaborative co-founder Evan Holland during last month’s city council presentation.
Both the survey results and the interview takeaways will serve as the foundation for the next phase in the city’s diversity, equity and inclusion project, which will take shape with the formation of three task forces — one that will look at the city as a whole and two others focused the city’s police
Those groups will be tasked with identifying areas of highest priority based on the survey and interview data, and then making recommendations on how to address those issues, whether it be through changes in city policy, practices or funding, said Santa Rosa Equity Officer Socorro Shiels, who is part of the core city team working with Seed Collaborative on the project.
Ultimately, the task forces’ recommendations will be used to create an equity plan that will go before the Santa Rosa City Council for approval, something that could happen as early as the summer, Shiels said.
“That next step of the task forces is really going to be critical, as the employees say what is going to be acceptable and what is going to be the road map moving forward,” Shiels said.
The survey data shared late last month shows Santa Rosa employees generally feel the city sees diversity, equity and inclusion issues as important, and encourages them to feel comfortable talking about the topic, though there’s less cohesion among staff on whether city initiatives to address the issue are taking place, or if they’re working.
Among the questions asked of every employee taking the survey, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they agreed that employees are encouraged to participate in diversity, equity and inclusion training, though less than a third said their departments had gone through related-coaching that had a “meaningful, insightful” or positive impact on their departments.
Half of the people asked about the latter question indicated they neither agreed or disagreed with the statement and the remaining 18% disagreed.
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