State, USAID: Diversity issues persist

The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development need to do better in developing and maintaining a diverse workforce, according to a recent GAO report.

An audit of the State Department and its allied agency USAID reports that these key foreign policy agencies are making slow progress in diversifying their workforces—and lack robust metrics needed to ensure better progress going forward.

The report, released by the General Accountability Office on July 26, criticizes management while acknowledging that relevant diversity efforts have made some progress over time.

“In 2020, GAO found that the Department of State's and U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) workforces grew more diverse overall from fiscal year 2002 to fiscal year 2018,” the report stated, referencing past audits. “However, promotion outcomes were generally lower for historically disadvantaged racial or ethnic groups than for whites.”

In a GAO analysis cited in the report, the auditors found that at State between 2002 and 2018 the proportion of those previously discriminated against (including Blacks and Hispanics) had grown from 28% of the workforce to 32%—a relatively modest gain.

Furthermore, with respect to career outcomes, the report found progress slow, in that “promotion for historically disadvantaged racial or ethnic groups was 4 to 29 percent less likely than for whites.”

The report also noted that the two agencies need to improve data collection and analysis, to better gain insights that can be used to effect improvements in diversity.

“State and USAID also face longstanding challenges in collecting information on marginalized groups, for reasons including intersectionality, data disaggregation, and differing definitions,” the report noted, regarding agency data challenges.

For more detail, see the full GAO report here.

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