Metropolitan announces first-ever Chief Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Officer

As chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Thomas has big responsibilities in her new role at Metropolitan

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has named its first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Officer. Liji Thomas, who has led DE&I initiatives at various organisations, including Southwest Airlines and Southern California Edison, will begin in her new role at Metropolitan on May 9.

Her appointment is part of the company’s new strategy that involves being more inclusive. “The creation of this new position is one of many changes underway at Metropolitan to build an environment that reflects our values, priorities and commitment to our employees,” said Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil. “I am excited about the impact that Liji will have as we continue on our journey to create the workplace we are striving for.”

To achieve this goal, the Chief DE&I officer is one of three new positions created by Hagekhalil. The district also announced its selection of Chief Sustainability, Resiliency and Innovation Officer Liz Crosson and Chief Equal Employment Opportunity Officer Jonaura Wisdom.

Big job 

As Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Thomas has big responsibilities in her new role. She will create new policies and drive reforms to existing policies and practices that foster and institutionalise a culture of equity and inclusion at Metropolitan. 

She will also direct strategies to attract diverse candidates who enhance the workplace culture and use a diversity, equity and inclusion lens to address disparities in Metropolitan’s contracting and economic development operations. In addition, Thomas will lead Metropolitan’s approach to effectively engaging underserved communities and direct community engagement programs.

She embraces this new role having vast amounts of experience in the profession. Before her recent move to Metropolitain, Thomas is currently Senior Vice President of DE&I at Beautycounter, a clean beauty and skincare company in Santa Monica. 

She got her start in DE&I initiatives in 2012 when she was tapped to lead those efforts at Southwest Airlines. For 15 years before leading DE&I at Southwest Airlines, Thomas served in various roles across audit, compliance, risk management and business strategy functions. Thomas also serves as a DE&I course facilitator in the online program at Cornell University.

As an expert in diversity, Thomas evolved in several sectors. From 2018 to 2020, she served as head of diversity and inclusion at Southern California Edison. She was recruited for a role after consulting for various Fortune 500 companies.

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