White House Government-wide Strategic Plan to Advance DEIA in the Federal Workforce

Response

On November 23, 2021, the White House released the Government-wide Strategic Plan to Advance. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce (https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Strategic-Plan-to-Advance-Diversity-Equity-Inclusion-and-Accessibility-in-the-Federal-Workforce-11.23.21.pdf). (See the report below.)

We applaud the Biden Administration’s efforts to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in the federal workforce. The Administration can do more by adopting refinements to the Plan based on public input, including taking our questions and recommendations outlined below into account, as well as by endorsing enactment of the PLUM Act, which would increase the transparency of data collected by the federal government.

  • Comprehensive & Meaningful: The Plan addresses many facets of increasing DEIA.
    • Elevates all seven protected classes of the EEOC and extends the focus of those underserved in the federal workforce to include parents, immigrants, first-generation professionals, individuals with limited English proficiency, people from rural areas, etc.
    • Establishes five operating principles, and lists eleven priority areas for every Department/Agency.
    • Recognizes that this is an ongoing effort (i.e. Maturity Model) and must be data-driven.
  • Accountability Mechanisms: The Plan frequently indicates that Department/Agency leaders “should” advance DEIA policies.  What are the accountability mechanisms to ensure these actions are taken?  And what are the consequences if these actions are not taken (e.g., employment, compensation, promotion opportunities, etc.)?  
  • Exit Interviews: While the emphasis on being data-driven and continuous improvement is welcome, we suggest the use of Exit Interviews as an integral part of the off-boarding process of federal employees. These may be especially useful sources of information for those who are politically appointed as they often do not have annual reviews by Human Resources.  These may be helpful in bringing accountability to leadership.
  • Inclusion Rule for Hiring and Promotion: The Plan directs each Department/Agency to create multi-year hiring projections of hiring needs and develop an outreach and recruitment plan to seek a diverse applicant pool.  We agree.  Research shows that putting in systems to ensure those projections are attained is critical.  The legal community’s Mansfield Rule is a great model to adopt/adapt.  Learn more about our recommendations to increase diversity in hiring here: https://inclusiveamerica.org/eo-diversity).  
  • Transparency of Data: Making as much of the data collected available to the American people is critical to ensuring that the Plan is working.  Because data released by the White House Office of Presidential Personnel and by the Office of Personnel Management are delayed and aggregated,  it is difficult for the public to know whether the Plan is working and how it might be improved.  The PLUM Act would help provide this transparency of data. The Administration should support the PLUM Act (www.InclusiveAmerica.org/bills-plum-act). 
  • Transparency of Plans: The Administration has not publicly disclosed its DEIA reports (i.e. the Interagency Working Group on the National Security Workforce has developed but not publicly released at least two quarterly reports).  The opacity of DEIA efforts hinders trust from federal employees, Employee Resource Groups, advocates and the wider public.  
  • Accessible Technology: While the Plan indicates that agencies should build and sustain an accessible federal technology environment, we have not seen this happen. We are particularly concerned that the Intelligence Community has struggled to hire, retain, and promote People with Disabilities.  Learn more about our recommendations  to improve accessibility in the intelligence community here: https://inclusiveamerica.org/eo-ic-pwd
  • Religious Inclusion: While the Plan recognizes diversity as including individuals who belong to communities that face discrimination based on their religion, it is often treated as a less important protected class.  Learn more about our recommendations to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of religious belief and affiliation here: https://inclusiveamerica.org/eo-religious-inclusion

REPORT

 

White House Government-wide Strategic Plan to Advance DEIA in the Federal Workforce