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The Rise of the Equity Analyst: Transforming DEI With Data

The creation of a new position in Indianapolis highlights an emerging trend of recruiting employees with technical data skills to focus on DEI initiatives. But can agencies successfully fill the roles and develop robust programs?

Aerial view of a statue surrounded by buildings in Indianapolis.
As many government agencies embrace data-driven decision-making, a new position in the realm of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is appearing: equity analysts, or data professionals hired specifically to use data to drive DEI efforts.

The city of Indianapolis is currently in the process of recruiting its first equity analyst, a position that will be under the umbrella of the agency’s new Office of Equity, Belonging and Inclusion (OEBI). The office was created in September 2023, after the city earmarked $687,865 in the FY 2024 budget for the department. The city’s first chief diversity and equity officer, Ben Tapper, is guiding the office’s direction.

Tapper explained to Government Technology that early into his time on the job he knew he needed a data expert. One of his first goals, inspired by the Office of Equity and Racial Justice in Chicago’s Equity Dashboard, was to build a tool to highlight workforce diversity data.

“I knew to do that work, I needed someone that had a bit more data expertise than I have,” said Tapper. “As I’ve gotten into the work there have been other projects that have come up like cultural surveys and evaluations. We would also benefit from someone with a lot of training in data analysis, and even data equity if possible.”

Indianapolis’ first Equity Dashboard is now available online, and visualizes what the city-county workforce looks like across race, ethnicity, gender and pay grades to portray how diverse the workforce is in terms of race, ethnicity and gender.
A screenshot of the Indianapolis Equity Dashboard.
The Indianapolis Equity Dashboard
As the agency looks to continue working with data, the new equity analyst position will reside within OEBI. The employee will serve as the primary point of contact for all OEBI data and evaluate and report KPIs related to equity and culture within the city-county enterprise. According to the job posting, the city prefers a candidate with a master’s degree in data analytics, data science or a related field and three to five years of related experience, with a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree in data analytics.

Tapper noted he’d like the office to use data to execute public-facing initiatives for residents, as well as forming partnerships with health organizations to work through some of the top health equity challenges. He believes the position is an opportunity to bring a fresh perspective and meld technical education with diverse lived experiences.

“The types of people that I have found so far that are attracted to data positions situated in my office are those themselves that hold a series of intersectional identities that are familiar enough with some of the ways in which it means to live as a person from an underrepresented group in Central Indiana,” said Tapper. “Historically, [data analyst] spaces are predominantly white, and usually predominantly white males. I’m excited about the opportunity to kind of upend that somewhat. I think upending how that space looks upends some of the late ideology that comes along with it.”

Several other equity analyst positions are posted on, including two racial equity analysts for the Washington state Attorney General, and a senior analyst for Los Angeles County’s Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative — however, the job descriptions do not specify a focus on data analysis.

Other cities have experimented with hiring equity analysts; however, in at least one case there has been challenges filling the position. According to the San Jose Spotlight, the San Jose Police Department struggled to fill a senior analyst position to advance its racial equity goals despite two rounds of recruitment in 2022 and 2023, citing a low response from applicants. San Jose currently has a separate position posted for a racial equity senior executive analyst, open until filled.

The salary for the new equity analyst position in Indianapolis is about $56,000, identical to other data analyst roles with the city. Tapper expressed optimism in the recruitment process, which started in December of 2023 and will close on March 21 of this year. He plans to have an employee in the position by the start of the second quarter of this year. OEBI is also hiring an equity training manager. Tapper is hopeful the 2025 budget will allow his office to continue adding new positions.

”My hope is that this office continues to grow so that it’s large enough that it is very difficult to move or get rid of, but also so that we’re able to kind of get the relationships and partnerships established and ingrained into the DNA of how the city government works so people can’t even remember a time before OEBI existed,” said Tapper.
Nikki Davidson is a data reporter for Government Technology. She’s covered government and technology news as a video, newspaper, magazine and digital journalist for media outlets across the country. She’s based in Monterey, Calif.