DEI / Entrepreneurs / Leadership

Power Moves: What does a city’s chief DEI officer do?

Meet Mayor Kenney's newly permanent chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Nefertiri Sickout. Plus, more new technical, medical and business leaders at orgs across Philadelphia.

Nefertiri Sickout, Philly's chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. (Courtesy photo)
Update: Details about Pennsylvania's new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office have been added. (6/4/21, 3:10 p.m.)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, new gig or promotion? Email us:

Thanks to a nationwide racial justice movement, we’ve noted an increase in the hiring, or at least visibility, of chief diversity officers and similar positions in the past year. For private companies, these professional are typically charged with building strategic plans to meet DEI hiring and culture goals.

The City of Philadelphia has had a version of the role for a few years, and last month announced a new chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer in Nefertiri Sickout. Sickout has been with the Mayor’s Office since 2016, and was most serving as acting DEI officer since last year, when Nolan Atkinson left the role in May 2020.

In this role, Sickout will lead the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion which houses the Office of LGBT Affairs and the Office for People with Disabilities. Mayor Jim Kenney’s announcement said the office is pushing forward a “dual strategy” with different departments to center a racial equity framework with equitable workforce and community outcomes.

Under this strategy, the departments are creating annual plans to achieve greater representation of and participation by employees of color and other historically marginalized and groups in the City’s workforce, per a press statement. They’ll also put forth a racial equity assessment and action plan for achieving more racially equitable impact in each agency’s budget, core services or programs, procurement, and community engagement.

“During the past year, Nefertiri has demonstrated steadfast leadership while advocating for a more diverse, equitable and inclusive city,” Kenney said. “I have seen first hand the impact that she has had ensuring the implementation of equitable programs in City government, which is critical as Philadelphia recovers from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Kenney added that while he’s proud of the accomplishments the city has made in the last year, he acknowledges there’s a great deal of progress yet to be made “in order to build an inclusive city that truly works for all.”

“Advocating for diverse, equitable, and inclusive programs has been a key pillar of this administration since 2016 and I’m proud to continue this critical work,” Sickout said. “I look forward to working with our City departments and partners in developing and implementing policies and programs that support all Philadelphians.”

Check out this August 2020 Generocity story about how Philadelphia plans to advance racial equity in the civil service sector via an interdepartmental project led by Sickout. It aims to identify racial and gender inequities in three positions: civil engineer, environmental engineer and recreation leader.

And in relevant news from the State of Pennsylvania, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office has been created and is hiring for four roles:

The roles will be open until June 6.


Center City’s Benefits Data Trust welcomes two new members of its leadership team — Neeta Sonalkar and Margaret Spring — who serve as the tech-driven benefits access nonprofit’s first director of higher education and the director of product, respectively.

Sonalkar will lead BDT’s work in helping more students enroll in and graduate from college without burdensome debt by helping to streamline access to financial aid and public benefits. She’s recently worked at the College Board, where she partnered with BDT to build an AI chatbot to guide students through completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), among other college affordability initiatives.

Spring’s work will center around developing a high-level roadmap for the org’s product strategy, including specifying BDT’s digital tools needs. She has also been a technical product liaison consultant for poverty-fighting nonprofit Robin Hood, and a fellow in its social impact incubator.

“As we continue to help families and communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, our efforts to modernize public benefits systems have never been more critical,” BDT said in a statement. “These directors are a key part of our work as we explore new strategies, partnerships, and products to better serve struggling families.”


ROAR for Good, makers of a wearable safety device for those in the hospitality industry, recently brought on Sebastian Rodas as its director of customer operations. In his new role, he’ll be overseeing and managing existing accounts, leading customer support and installations of the company’s AlwaysOn platform.

“What stood out to us was Sebastian’s intricate knowledge of the hotel industry and his cultural awareness as we look toward expanding to new markets in both the U.S. and abroad,” said ROAR for Good COO and cofounder Mahmoud Odeh in a statement. “He also has experience leading growing teams and launching new products — two expectations in this new role.”

Rodas will be joining the team remotely from Canada, and worked most recently at in-room entertainment company GuestTek Interactive, where he held a handful of customer-centric roles.

“ROAR for Good is a mission-first company with a leader in Yasmine [Mustafa] who inspires her team on a daily basis,” Rodas said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting growth through client acquisition and retention, as well as raising the overall awareness for panic buttons in our industry. There’s never been more urgency to secure hotels from unexpected and unanticipated threats to employee well being.”


University City-based biomedical research org The Wistar Institute recently announced the appointment of Noam Auslander as assistant professor in the Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center.

Her research focuses on the development of machine learning methods to investigate cancer progression and evolution of viral infections. It uses AI to process large datasets and integrate different types of data to identify complex patterns with them.

“Noam has established herself as an emerging leader in these areas, creating innovative algorithms to identify novel genomic predictors of aggressive disease, in particular metastasis, which is responsible for over 90% of all cancer deaths,” said Dario Altieri, Wistar president and CEO, in a statement. “Our researchers in the Cancer Center cannot be more excited about the broad and impactful collaborations that Noam’s arrival at Wistar will enable, creating new, transformative knowledge to tailor personalized cancer medicine for our patients.”


The Equal Measure board of directors has appointed Leon T. Andrews, Jr. as the organization’s president and CEO. Andrews succeeds Meg Long, who served as president for the past seven years.

The consultancy helps clients design strategies for what they want to achieve within their organization. Andrews will lead Equal Measure after recently serving as the director of race, equity and leadership at the National League of Cities.

“Leon is a dynamic leader with a longstanding record as a collaborator and innovator,” said Jason Ingle, Equal Measure board chair, in the emailed announcement. “The knowledge and experience Leon brings will continue to enhance Equal Measure’s work in strategy, evaluation, capacity building, technical assistance, and communications.”

Companies: Wistar Institute / ROAR / Benefits Data Trust / City of Philadelphia
Series: Power Moves

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