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Marginal gains were made in the federal govt.
Marginal gains were made in the federal govt. Photo: Getty Images

Biden Administration publishes first-ever report on diversity in federal government

This follows an executive order from POTUS in June 2021 that directed OPM and other federal agencies to prioritize diversity in hiring.

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Diversity in the federal government is an ongoing process that under the Biden Administration, has seen gains. 

The Biden Administration and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) published the first-ever annual report on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in government on Feb. 15.  

It includes workforce demographics, and reveals progress on strategic plans and initiatives across the federal workforce.

OPM director Kiran Ahuja said “in order to recruit and sustain the best talent, we must ensure every service-minded individual feels welcome and supported in contributing their talents to the federal workforce” and that “we look forward to continuing the work to break down barriers to serve and help build a federal government that draws from the strength and diversity of its people.”

This follows an executive order signed by Biden in June 2021 that tasked government agencies like OPM and others to “cultivate a workforce that draws from the full diversity of the nation.”

The major government agencies also have to have equity teams in place within 30 days according to the order to bolster partnerships and engagement with communities. A White House Steering Committee on Equity will also be created to coordinate efforts and oversee the agencies’ activities with efforts also made to build equity into the budget process.

The report also reveals objectives towards supporting small businesses by way of government procurement practices, and Office of Management and Budget efforts to “support equitable decision-making, promote equitable deployment of financial and technical assistance, and assist agencies in advancing equity, as appropriate and wherever possible,” through changes to its directives and guidance.

Since Biden’s order from June 2021, among the initiatives highlighted in the report that have been implemented in the time since are the Chief Diversity Officers Executive Council, summits for issues such as disability employment, the promotion of equitable healthcare coverage for LGBTQ+ employees and the creation of the DEIA Learning Community that helps federal agencies with implementing best practices.

Diversity being a historically tough area for the federal government, the report offers accessible demographic data on the federal workforce, with breakdowns by race, gender and disability.

The report revealed that the government made marginal gains in regards to diversity during former President Donald Trump’s time in office between 2017 and 2021. Black employees accounted for 18.19% of the federal workforce in 2021 which is a 0.04 percentage points increase from 2017. 

Latino employees saw a slight improvement, accounting for 9.53% in 2021, an increase of 0.78 points while Asian employees accounted for 6.49%, a 0.5 point improvement.

This is in stark comparison to the 2020 U.S. Census when Black people accounted for 12.1% of the country’s total population and Latinos accounted for 18.7%. 

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders represented just 0.56% of the federal workforce, a 0.05 point improvement on 2017, while the American Indian and native Alaskan employees dropped 0.07 points in the last four years. Mixed race people accounted for 2.01%, up 0.41 points.

But these numbers are considerably higher for these same groups of people in senior executive service (SES). Black employees for instance represented 11.66% of civil service leaders in 2021.

Women have also gained some ground as they accounted for 44.44% of the total workforce and 37.85% of the SES — as seen in Global Government Forum’s Women Leaders Index. ‘

The index has the U.S. in eighth place in its ranking of G20 countries by proportion of women in the highest grades of civil and public services.

Federal workers with ‘targeted disabilities’ — which include blindness, deafness, partial or complete paralysis, missing extremities, autism, and others — accounted for 2.5% of the total workforce in 2021. 

“We are proud of the work we have accomplished but also know there are opportunities for improvement and sustainability,” government-wide chief diversity officer Dr. Janice Underwood said.

However, nonbinary workers are excluded from the report, an area that Underwood notes will change with future reports. 

“Having this gender binary doesn't go far enough [and] is not inclusive for our workforce,” Underwood told The 19th. “So OPM and the office of DEIA in particular are really taking the lead and reimagining what that could look like, everything from what it looks like on forms to what it looks like when you apply for jobs.”

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