UnidosUS alum is the first-ever Treasury counselor of racial equity

Janis Bowdler spent 10 years with us as a leader driving economic policy change and fostering opportunity for Latinos.

Janis Bowdler
Janis Bowdler, the new counselor of racial equity for the Department of the Treasury, is the former UnidosUS director of economic policy.

As part of our fight to secure civil rights and racial equity for all Americans, we’re committed to showing how structural racism has affected every aspect of Latino lives throughout American history. Latinos face barriers in issues like education and immigration, but also in housing, jobs, and the economy as well. We’re pleased that the Department of Treasury has appointed the first-ever counselor of racial equity to address these inequities. We’re especially proud to say that she’s Latina, and a former member of the UnidosUS familia, Janis Bowdler.

The Department of Treasury announced Monday that Janis’s work will include “engaging with diverse communities throughout the country and to identify and mitigate barriers to accessing benefits and opportunities with the Department.” Communities of color have historically faced barriers when interacting with government departments; appointing a person with the specific intent to remove those barriers is a historic action, potentially helping millions of Americans access much-needed support. Janis’s appointment is a major step forward in ensuring that the U.S. government works for all Americans.

Janis is perfect for this new role, having spent 10 years with UnidosUS as director of economic policy. Charles Kamasaki, our senior cabinet advisor, fondly remembers Janis’s advancement in the organization:

“Janis moved from an entry-level policy analyst to overseeing our entire economic policy portfolio, being appointed to the board of directors of the Raza Development Fund—the nation’s largest Latino community development financial institution (CDFI)—and speaking for our organization in bank shareholder meetings, research and policy symposia, congressional hearings, and foundation convenings.”

Specifically, Janis will help improve access to the Child Tax Credit, and examine how community development financial institutions can help people of color build better financial futures. UnidosUS Vice President of Housing and Community Development Lot Diaz remembers Janis’s commitment to our Affiliate Network, which is made up of hundreds of community-based organizations—some of which are CDFIs—that support families across the country:

“Janis immediately understood the value of Affiliates’ experiences in informing public housing policy. She was imaginative and used our Affiliates’ stories to develop innovative public policy approaches that promoted change.”

From left: Janis joined UnidosUS Affiliate Mission Asset Fund Founder and CEO José Quiñonez; activist, writer, and producer Julissa Arce, and UnidosUS Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy Eric Rodriguez at the 2018 UnidosUS Annual Conference.
From left: Janis joined UnidosUS Affiliate Mission Asset Fund Founder and CEO José Quiñonez; activist, writer, and producer Julissa Arce; and UnidosUS Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy Eric Rodriguez at the 2018 UnidosUS Annual Conference.

A FIGHTER FOR OPPORTUNITY FOR LATINOS AND ALL AMERICANS

While at UnidosUS (then the National Council of La Raza) Janis advocated for opportunities for Latino families to recover from the Great Recession, access banking, and obtain better jobs. During her time with us, she was often one of the few Latinas commenting on economic policy at the federal level, testifying before congressional committees and the Federal Reserve on matters related to jobs and the economy.

Janis’s testimony and policy analysis revealed that bad-faith home loans were unfairly targeting Latino families, which came to a head in the foreclosure crisis of 2008. As families lost their homes, Janis worked with a coalition of civil rights leaders to both help and advocate for those who had been hit hardest by the recession. She fought for new protections to ensure such a crisis wouldn’t happen again, and her efforts with the coalition informed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“There wasn’t a single issue she declined to tackle,” Charles remembers, “and Janis mastered every single one. Based on this record, we have no doubt she’s prepared to tackle—and master—the many challenges she’ll face in helping lead our country to “Build Back Better.”

After a decade of outstanding work with us, Janis became president of the JPMorgan Chase & Co. Foundation, one of our valued partners. While there, she helped build the foundation’s commitment to racial equity, totaling $30 billion, further helping communities of color access banking products and services.

UnidosUS is extraordinarily proud to have one of our own in this historic role. Janis embodies the goal of our Proyecto 20 campaign: having qualified Latinas and Latinos in appointed positions means that we will have a stronger government that not only reflects the diversity of our country, but will accurately reflect our priorities and needs. Our Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Eric Rodriguez knows that Janis will bring a unique and vital perspective to the Treasury:

“Janis is a great researcher, an extraordinary analyst, a polished communicator and a seasoned executive. But perhaps her most powerful asset is who she is—someone from a tough hardscrabble background who has worked her way up to the highest echelons of nonprofit, corporate, and public service who never once forgets where she came from.”

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