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GAO urges State Department to improve diversity

The State Department needs to expand racial and ethnic diversity among its full-time, permanent, career workforce, the Government Accountability Office said.

In a June 17 report, GAO found that although the overall proportion of racial or ethnic minorities among the State Department’s career employees grew from 28% to 32% between 2002 and 2018, changes for specific groups varied significantly. For example, the proportion of African Americans fell from 17% to 15% percent, while the proportions of Hispanics, Asians and other racial or ethnic minorities rose by varying percentages. The proportion of racial or ethnic minorities and women was lowest in the higher ranks of State's workforce.

There were racial and ethnic disparities when it came to promotions, too. Analyzing both descriptive analyses (calculating simple averages) and adjusted analyses (controlling for factors that could influence promotion), GAO found that promotion for minorities was significantly less likely than for whites. Both types of analysis showed that promotions for women were lower than for men in the Civil Service and higher in the Foreign Service.

While the State Department had already identified some diversity issues and worked to solve them through recruiting and retention, GAO recommended it identify other potential diversity barriers, such as lower promotion outcomes for minorities relative to whites, underrepresentation of Hispanic employees and underrepresentation of minorities in the senior ranks.  

“Until State takes steps to explore such issues, it could be missing opportunities to investigate and remove barriers that impede members of some demographic groups from realizing their full potential,” GAO said.

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