First woman of color to hold statewide office in New Jersey shares her inspirational journey
In honor of Black History Month, BD’s African-Americans at BD (AABD) associate resource group hosted New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver at their global headquarters in Franklin Lakes, N.J. As the first woman of color to hold statewide office in New Jersey, Lieutenant Governor Oliver has had a distinguished career in politics advancing social justice, women’s equality, and supporting themes of inclusion and diversity in New Jersey communities.
When asked what started her journey into public service, the Lieutenant Governor recalled a specific assignment in her 8th grade honors English class: to read Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
“That book started my education on the way societies are structured, and the disparities that exist,” said Oliver. “The phrase, ‘Let them eat cake,” really bothered me at age 13, and started me on my path. I’ve always strived to be a voice for the people who don’t have one.”
“I grew up during the Civil Rights movement, which had the involvement of ALL types of people,” she said. “Good government is the art of compromise. Anyone who goes into it determined to always get their way will not be successful.”
Lt. Governor Oliver has been a political trailblazer since completing her graduate studies at Columbia University, first working in the office of Newark Mayor Kenneth Allen Gibson, the first African American elected mayor of any major Northeastern United States city. From there she went on to serve in the New Jersey General Assembly, becoming the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House in 300+ years of New Jersey politics, and the first woman of color to hold a statewide office when she became Lieutenant Governor. She attributes much of her personal success to attitude, authenticity and perseverance.
In addition to her role as Lieutenant Governor, Oliver serves in a dual capacity as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, where she has led efforts to strengthen and expand initiatives for fair and affordable housing, community revitalization, homelessness prevention and local government services. She is proud of a recent accomplishment in establishing a Caregiver Task Force designed to support people taking care of elderly or disabled loved ones. And she fiercely values strong education, to which she believes is the root of all good outcomes and engagement.
“I have never changed who I am,” she said. “It’s about putting in the work. When they asked me what I wanted to focus on in government, I answered that I’m interested in everything. I didn’t want to limit myself.”
The Lt. Governor made it clear that she honors Black History month 365 days a year, not just during the month of February; and that she has a responsibility to her constituents and the community in which she resides in to continually highlight her background and upbringing. She feels her ability to make things happen is largely due to her cooperative approach to working with different types of people and from all walks of life.
Like Lieutenant Governor Oliver, BD has an appreciation for history, upbringing and perseverance too, having been incorporated in the state of New Jersey over 115 years ago. The company began its humble beginnings in East Rutherford with 80 employees dedicated to manufacturing needles and syringes. Since that time, BD has grown into a global medical technology company with more than 65,000 associates worldwide serving 190 countries and Franklin Lakes is home to our global corporate headquarters.
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