Federal Employees News Digest

Federal Jobs Act calls for greater diversity in senior ranks

The Federal Jobs Act calls on the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, the President’s Management Council, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to work together to create a new, shared road map leading to that desired diversity: an Executive Branch Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Initiative and Strategic Plan. 

The resulting work product, according to a press statement, "would put a critical focus on workforce diversity, workplace inclusion, agency accountability and leadership, and strategies to identify and remove barriers to equal employment at each agency." 

"This kind of bill, if enacted in such a way to lead to greater monitoring and follow-up, would be a powerful tool," said Delia L. Johnson, a federal diversity consultant. "When I was in government, we were always reporting—report after report—on diversity," she said. "But no one was really following up, and agencies were and often are more or less just ‘checking the box.’" 

Following the model of a 2011 Executive Order on diversity in the federal workplace signed by President Barack Obama, the new plan would require agencies to "identify and remove barriers to equal employment opportunity and develop practices to improve the effectiveness of [each] agency's efforts to recruit, hire, promote, retain, develop, and train a diverse and inclusive workforce," according to the statement. "The legislation also requires agencies to publicly report and update … demographic workforce data and progress." 

Johnson said she sees clear value in the renewed effort, though in some aspects it has been tried before. 

"We need a top-down kind of change here," she said. "Poor practices start at the top. Unfortunately, leaders at a lot of federal agencies and organizations remain so focused on mission and that they need just the right people in place, period, to take care of agency mission matters. … If someone were really working on diversity, we have the talent and we could be seeing far greater gains." 

"A problem so far is, once most Latin Americans and African Americans reach approximately the GS-12 level, you frequently find they’ve arrived at, frankly, a barrier," she said. "There continue to be efforts to use data to do barrier analysis—exit interviews and other data—in an effort to discern what are the barriers to higher leadership ranks. So far, I believe we are overreporting on this, yet still not following up—enforcing, pushing things toward improvement. There needs to be a system, a real system, on this." 

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