They have their plans; Can federal agencies follow through on equity?

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Not since the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s have we seen such a concentration of executive branch directives on diversity, equity and inclusion issued at the same time. They range from the broad, like President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 13985, to the incredibly specific, like the 14 civil rights compliance reviews scheduled by the General Services Administration of state agencies for surplus assets in the fiscal year. 2022-2026, and compliance reviews of the largest recipients of federal surplus personal property.

This second example comes from the GSA Equity Action Plan, one of more than 90 released by federal agencies this week. They encompass a combined total of 300 new actions to support underserved or marginalized groups, including communities of color, women, LGBTQ+ communities, people with disabilities, tribes, rural and low-income communities.

Many of these efforts require funding, which is why Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young said the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2023 includes equity investments.

However, the Biden administration acknowledged in the announcement of the plans that equity is a generational commitment, not a one- or even five-year plan. And it’s not like attempts to increase diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) are anything new. Diversity and inclusion are challenges across the federal government. They are simply more visible for certain agencies, due to the nature of their missions, their size or the publicity they receive.

Take the example of the Department of State which, aside from the military, is perhaps the best-known federal agency for physically representing America around the world. Diplomacy and cultural exchange are essential facets of the state’s mission, so how can it have a diversity and inclusion problem?

Well, on the one hand, the state has a history of excluding minorities from employment and leadership positions despite several policy attempts to diversify its workforce. Fast forward so far, it has also come under scrutiny for what some see as a form of passive discrimination. This month, social media users and the Atlanta Black Star news site drew attention to Peace Corps advice for non-white volunteers working in Ukraine. The advice specifically warns that racial and ethnic minorities face a higher risk of discrimination in the Eastern European country than white people, but offers little direct support or avenue of redress for those affected.

Supporting a diverse workforce requires different support for unique needs or experiences. Two people may have the same position, the same tasks and the same deployment, but the external factors of their environment can produce radically different results for these employees, and the State should take this into account.

When the department’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, was sworn in just over a year ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the ceremony, “We we have our work cut out. The State Department is simply not as diverse and inclusive as it should be.

He referenced a Government Accountability Office report from the previous year which found that the overall proportion of racial or ethnic minorities in the state’s permanent full-time workforce fell from 28% to 32. % from fiscal year 2002 to 2018, but the proportion of racial or ethnic minorities ethnic minorities and women were lowest at the executive and management levels. Minorities in the state civil service were 4% to 29% less likely to be promoted than their white colleagues with a similar education, occupation, or years of federal service.

As CDIO, Abercrombie-Winstanley, the former ambassador to Malta and former diplomat who has served around the world, is tasked with leading efforts to build a department ‘like the America it represents’. . It’s easier said than done.

In her testimony at a June 2020 hearing of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, she stated bluntly that she was proud of her 32 years in foreign service. , “but I am not proud of how the State Department has hindered, undervalued, demoralized, and destroyed the dreams of some of its best and brightest through prejudice, racism, and silent discrimination.

Abercrombie-Winstanley said the state should encourage inclusion in promotion and leadership positions, that it does not evaluate performance on employees’ ability to raise underrepresented officers, expand diversity of views and background in decision-making, or their ability to make their respective office, embassy, ​​bureau or section more inclusive.

A month before her appointment, the Truman Center released a report she co-chaired, containing “sincere comments from career diplomats on the front lines,” including mid-level officers from the civil and foreign service and from underservant groups. represented. Among its many recommendations was the creation of a powerful and clearly defined position of Diversity and Inclusion Officer, reporting to the Secretary, to whom each office would report through a Senior Advisor (FS- 01 or higher) for diversity and inclusion.

For now at least, another state agency can cross this step off their list.

Neneh Diallo was sworn in as the first ever diversity officer at the US Agency for International Development on March 16. was much more than just a change in the agency’s appearance.

“It’s about changing the way it feels to work here, raising a much more inclusive range of voices and making sure they have seats at the table, and addressing the legacies of racism. and sexism that plague every institution in this country,” Power said.

In accordance with the Biden administration’s DEIA executive order, all agencies were required to submit a DEIA strategy to the OPM last month. The OE did not require agencies to make these strategies publicly available, and although USAID drafted a DEIA plan in 2020, only the summary of the strategy is available on the agency’s website. Past attempts to increase USAID diversity have produced mixed results: another GAO study of USAID staff from 2002 to 2018 found that the overall proportion of racial or ethnic minorities in the workforce full-time permanent work increased from 33% to 37%, but the proportions of some groups decreased. Racial or ethnic minorities in the public service were 31% to 41% less likely to be promoted than white people with similar jobs or years of service, according to the final report in 2020. Staffing gaps and the lack of attention from senior management were USAID’s main reasons. failure to meet EEO requirements.

At the time of this writing, the GAO reports that USAID has implemented its four recommendations.

Almost useless factoid

By David Thorton

Hippo sweat includes a pigment that absorbs UV rays, functioning as a type of natural sunscreen.

Source: National Geographic

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