Mayor de Blasio Appoints New Commissioners To The Commission On Gender Equity

November 10, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced the appointment of three new Commissioners to the Commission on Gender Equity (CGE).

CGE is an agency tasked with supporting City agencies in dismantling institutional barriers for women, girls, transgender, and gender non-binary New Yorkers.

These new appointees are community leaders, advocates, founders, and creators of organizations that break down gendered barriers across New York City.

The new Commissioners will work with CGE and the current Commissioners as partners and ambassadors for CGE’s work and the broader gender equity efforts of the de Blasio Administration.

The newly appointed Commissioners are:

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  • Imara Jones, Creator of Translash Media
  • Kiara St. James, Founder and Executive Director of New York Transgender Advocacy Group
  • Shyama Venkateswar, Senior Director of Learning, Seramount

“Building a recovery for all of us means ensuring every New Yorker is guaranteed opportunities, acceptance, and support,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “These new members will help us ensure we never go back to the status quo and instead create a fairer, more equitable city for every resident, regardless of gender.”

“When we launched the Commission on Gender Equity, our mission was to make sure government represents, serves, and supports ALL New Yorkers, no matter their gender, ethnicity, income or who they love,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “Over the past six years we have reached historic milestones becoming the first city in the nation to enforce a Salary History Ban, to implement Paid Sick and Safe Leave and to create a Pay Equity Cabinet. Under the leadership of these new commissioners, we will build on that foundation and continue the fight for gender equity.”

“The only way to create a just society and a better, stronger New York is through gender equity,” said Imara Jones. “The legacy of the patriarchy is still a fact for too many New Yorkers and it causes violence in all its forms—physical, political, financial and cultural—to be an unnecessary reality. By righting these wrongs of the past today, specifically by creating a city and country where all genders can thrive, we will foster a world where we can all live freely.”

“As a Black woman of trans experience it is with extreme honor to be part of such a progressive and intentional committee that will work hard to uplift the voices of all women,” said Kiara St. James. “It is my honor to further this work on behalf of the de Blasio Administration and help build a fairer, more equitable, and more inclusive city for New Yorkers.”

“I am thrilled to be working with the other members of the Commission on Gender Equity to bring thought leadership to intentionally advance an equity-based public policy agenda that makes critical investments in families and communities,” said Shyama Venkateswar. “Committing our collective efforts towards gender parity can help to transform the lives of millions of New Yorkers – women, girls, transgender and gender non-conforming persons – towards greater well-being and inclusion. We have a rare opportunity at this moment to make transformational change, and it is an honor to be asked to serve by the Mayor in an advisory capacity on issues so close to my heart and to which I have been deeply committed for more than three decades.”

“I am pleased to welcome Imara, Kiara, and Shyama to the Commission on Gender Equity as we work to advance economic mobility and opportunity, health and reproductive justice, and safety for all New Yorkers, regardless of gender identity, gender expression or background,” said Jacqueline Ebanks, Executive Director, NYC Commission on Gender Equity. “I am confident that their tremendous professional and personal knowledge, insight, and experience will contribute greatly to our efforts.”

“COVID-19 has shown us just how central advancing gender and racial equity is to our overall goal of a New York City that works for all,” said Silda Palerm, Co-Chair, NYC Commission on Gender Equity. “I am confident that the dedication, relationships, and knowledge that these new Commissioners bring will prove most critical in advancing our agenda. I look forward to getting to work.”

“Our city is home to millions of New Yorkers whose diversity has always enriched our communities,” said Farah N. Louis, Council Member and Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus. “One’s gender identity or expression is no exception. By expanding the Commission on Gender Equity, we are deepening our city’s commitment to disrupt societal norms that perpetuate discrimination. Together, we can strengthen families while bolstering our economy to better shape our future through inclusion, representation, and fairness.”

Established in June 2015, CGE works to effectively address issues of inequity and discrimination facing women, girls, transgender, and gender non-binary individuals regardless of their ability, age, ethnicity/race, faith, gender expression, immigrant status, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. CGE works with various city agencies to help progress the Mayor’s goal of reducing gender-based inequity, by advancing a safer, more inclusive and economically mobile city for all New Yorkers.

The Commission on Gender Equity (CGE) continues to strive towards gender equity across New York City through the support and partnership of City agencies, commissioners, and community partners.

Key highlights of their work include:

  • In 2018, CGE released a 2018 – 2021 strategic plan which serves as a guide of CGE’s activities during and for the remainder of the de Blasio administration.
  • Previously, CGE published Leveling the Paying Field: Best Practices for Gender Pay Equity in the Workplace, targeted towards employers and employees.
  • CGE created the City’s first ever Gender Equity Interagency Partnership, with representatives from each City agency, tasked with identifying their agency’s internal and external policies and practices that advance gender equity practices, with the ultimate goal of creating aligned and sustainable gender equity practices across the Administration.
  • CGE Executive Director Ebanks chairs the Mayor’s Sexual Health Education Task Force, which promotes sexual wellness and education within NYC Public Schools.
  • In 2019, CGE released Challenges in Obtaining Pay Equity in the Workplace: A Report on New York City’s 2019 Public Hearing on Pay Equity.
  • In partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence, CGE led a successful local campaign in New York City for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, partnering with numerous community organizations and City agencies to host over 80 events across 35 community districts, reaching and mobilizing over 12,000 New Yorkers.
  • In September 2021, CGE released the report Advancing Gender Equity through Legislation: Overview of Select Laws Passed from 2014 – 2020 documenting gender equity gains achieve during the de Blasio Administration.

Additionally, the de Blasio Administration has continued its commitment to making great strides towards gender equity with key legislative advancements including:

  • Salary History Ban: Prohibits employers from inquiring about a prospective employee’s salary history during all stages of the employment process. In the event that an employer is already aware of a prospective employee’s salary history, this law prohibits reliance on that information in the determination of salary.
  • Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act: Expands sexual harassment protections under the New York City Human Rights Law and mandates anti-sexual harassment trainings in the public and private sectors.
  • Gender “X” Marker Bill: Offers New Yorkers the option to reflect their non-binary gender identity on their birth certificate, without requiring a letter from a health care provider.
  • · Diaper Changing Accommodations Law: All restrooms in new and heavily renovated buildings are required to have diaper changing stations.
  • Expanding Lactation Accommodations: Employers covered by NYC Human Rights Law are to provide lactation rooms, as well as refrigerators, in reasonable proximity to work areas.

Newly Appointed Commissioners

Imara Jones is a journalist, news producer, and creator of TransLash Media, a cross-platform journalism effort that produces content to shift the current culture of hostility towards transgender people in the US. Imara also hosts a bi-weekly Translash Podcast where trans people and their allies gather to talk about important community issues and how to build a better world for all.

Her work as a journalist, producer, and advocate focuses on the full range of equity and social justice issues from the perspective of America’s emerging majority — people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community.

Imara is on the board of the Anti-violence Project, and the New Pride Agenda. She was a 2018 Fellow-in-Residence at the New York Women’s Foundation and a VOQAL Fellow alumna. Her work has been featured in The Guardian, The Nation, BBC News, MIC, The Grio, Salon, and the Washington Post Company’s The Root. Imara’s work on Viacom’s Know HIV/AIDS campaign garnered her two Emmy Awards and a Peabody. Imara also served in the Clinton White House where she held two posts in international economic policy and communications. Imara, a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, received an undergraduate degree in political science and history from Columbia University and a master’s degree in Economics from the London School of Economics.

Kiara St. James is the Founder and current Executive Director of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, which advocates for more inclusive gender-based policies that benefit Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming/Non-Binary individuals. She has been a community organizer and public speaker for over 20 years, presenting workshops concerning marginalized communities at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, and the United Nations, as well as many other conferences and academic institutions. Kiara has been instrumental in changing discriminatory shelter policies that affected the Trans community and the passage of GENDA in 2019.

Dr. Shyama Venkateswar is the Senior Director of Learning at Seramount. She is an expert in U.S. and global policy research and advocacy, bringing critical thinking to tailored content development. Shyama has extensive networks in nonprofit, academia, business, policy, and advocacy groups, with experience building partnerships and applying research to solve pressing social and workplace-related challenges. She has deep experience in effective communication in multiple settings, including academia, foundations, corporations, the United Nations, and the U.S. Capitol. Shyama is committed to creating global partnerships between multiple stakeholders with a vision for transformative social change. She is a graduate of Smith College and received her Ph. D. in Political Science from Columbia University.

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