New Director For A New State Office

Governor Inslee announced Karen Johnson, PhD, as the director for the newly established Washington State Office of Equity. Johnson, previously the equity and inclusion administrator for the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), started her new duties as director in March.  

Signed into law by the governor in April 2020, HB 1783 established this new state office after legislation for it was introduced in January 2019. Johnson’s career includes working as an equal employment opportunity (EEO) program manager for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and serving as director for Tri-Love Ministries in Seattle, before transitioning to local and state government work. “Karen brings extensive experience working to transform local and state government systems to more equitably serve Washingtonians,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. Sen. Manka Dhingra, who sponsored the Senate companion to the legislation creating the Office of Equity added, “As director of the Office of Equity, she will be a strong and inspirational champion for creating a future that we want our children to live in.” As for director Johnson herself, “We will work to develop a new state culture that centers equity in all of its work and provides all Washingtonians with an opportunity to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” she said.

 Legislation states the new office must be guided by the following principles of equity: 

  • Equity requires developing, strengthening, and supporting policies and procedures that distribute and prioritize resources to those who have been historically and currently marginalized, including tribes;
  • Equity requires the elimination of systemic barriers that have been deeply entrenched in systems of inequality and oppression; and 
  • Equity achieves procedural and outcome fairness, promoting dignity, honor, and respect for all people.

The director shall report to the governor. The office will assist all state agencies in applying an equity lens in all aspects of agency decision making. Detailed records will be kept, and each agency’s performance will be published.  A new website has not yet been set up for the Office of Equity, but you can find more information on the legislation and/or Dr. Karen Johnson by visiting: and

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