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Tennessee Diversity and Inclusion Council Chairs

Lawrence Sanders and Todd Bartine

Lawrence Sanders and Todd Bartine, Tennessee Diversity and Inclusion Council Chairs
Lawrence Sanders (left) and Todd Bartine (right)
Kristina Krug
The Tennessee Diversity and Inclusion Council was created by Lawrence Sanders and Todd Bartine, the project delivery director and IT director, respectively, for Tennessee’s Strategic Technology Solutions (STS) agency of the Department of Finance and Administration. The two identified a need to create a more inclusive culture within STS.

Following the May 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of a now-convicted former police officer, protests in Minneapolis and across the nation drove racial justice conversations within government agencies and the larger society. At STS, the question arose of what the agency could do to create a culture that welcomed people of all backgrounds.

Sanders proposed his idea of a diversity and inclusion council, and executive leadership — with special credit to state CIO Stephanie Dedmon and Deputy CIO J.P. McInnes — embraced the idea.

Establishing the council began with designing a charter. Bartine and Sanders did extensive research to see what has worked for other organizations. Ultimately, they created five teams with distinct missions: data analytics, recruitment, inclusion, outreach and communications.

Data analytics is focused on identifying where the organization is currently to establish a foundation for measuring their effectiveness. Recruitment involves building better pipelines to hire from different minority groups, as well as eliminating bias in performance metrics. The inclusion team works to build a diverse and inclusive culture with awareness campaigns, affinity groups and education. Outreach involves relationship building within the community as well as different state agencies. Finally, the communications team informs people of what is being done and why.

Building this culture, Sanders hopes, will allow individuals within STS to be their authentic selves at work, rather than a persona they believe will help them be successful professionally — “Think about, if you create a culture where people feel free to be themselves and they don’t have that extra burden on them, how much more productive and how much more successful they can be, and therefore, the organization can be,” he said.

As the goals of more diverse and inclusive work environments continue to permeate both government and private-sector priority lists, Tennessee’s council will be one to watch.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.