As the second person in the relatively new role of chief diversity officer for the City of Buffalo, Shatorah Donovan, JD ’12, MSW ’11, BA ’07, discovered a good foundation as she approached the job. Her background—including fundraising, and immigration and business law—enabled her to both shape the job to her interests and base her early actions on the mayor’s agenda and her predecessor’s groundwork.
The job entails responsibility for the oversight and implementation of the City of Buffalo Opportunity Agenda through strategies and tactics including economic inclusion, City contract compliance and monitoring, M/WBE certification, and contractual community benefit.
Working with various city departments, she’s learned more about how diversity” can be perceived. “It’s my role to dignify people—and to help those who might think that ‘diversity’ might mean ‘exclusion,’” she says. “Genuine connection” is key to being effective in her role. Donovan aims to be perceived as credible, authentic, and trustworthy; she relies at least in part on her social work background and education.
Donovan was named a 2021 honoree by Buffalo Business First for its annual Inclusion Diversity Equity Awareness (IDEA) Awards. She is pleased with the acknowledgment but notes that real-life results mean a lot to her too. “The greatest recognition is when someone says, ‘What you did made a difference in my life,’” she said.
She always keeps at least part of her focus on her passion: economic inclusion and wealth-building in disinvested communities, and sees her daily job—and her mission to elevate individuals and community with intention—as ideal: “If what we do gives them the confidence to be bolder, to have more faith in their abilities…that is a dream job.”
This summer she’ll work with an interdisciplinary team of Social Impact Fellows students as they fulfill their short-term mission to come up with innovative solutions to existing problems.
“I’m excited to be part of this brilliant program,” she said. “The SIF group’s diverse perspectives, in combination with their creativity, technical and educational skills will open my mind. I learn so much about what’s out there when I have interns. I want to focus on bias—dive deep into how we can bring awareness. How are we going to open minds, create future-forward environments?”