By Michael Rhoads, April 20, 2021
Biden administration has set a striking tone when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion. OPM has always taken a lead role in defining Diversity and Inclusion, which it has now expanded to include two other related concepts, Equity and Accessibility. OPM defined its role in its March 8 memorandum, “Moving forward, OPM will play a critical leadership role in the Administration’s governmentwide efforts to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) and we encourage all agencies to continue DEIA activities which include training and educating your workforce.” But what does that mean for you and your agency?
Let’s start by looking at what each term means:
Diversity – This is a well-established field in federal agencies. I found a comprehensive definition of diversity in OPM’s Guidance for Agency-Specific Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plans. It states, “workforce diversity is a collection of individual attributes that together help agencies pursue organizational objectives efficiently and effectively. These include, but are not limited to, characteristics such as national origin, language, race, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and family structures. The concept also encompasses differences among people concerning where they are from and where they have lived and their differences of thought and life experiences.” Diversity in the Federal workforce is established, but because people aren’t perfect, it needs attention and follow up to ensure standards are maintained.
Equity – A renewed focus on equity began on day one of the Biden Administration. On Jan. 20, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which states, “the Federal Government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.”
The EO goes on to further clarify: “The term ‘equity’ means the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.”
OPM further clarified action items for agencies regarding equity in its March 8 letter. “Consistent with these aims, each agency must assess whether, and to what extent, its programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups.”
Inclusion – Also a well-established concept in Federal agencies. Inclusion takes Diversity a step further, and is a call to action within the business culture of an agency. OPM’s Guidance for Agency-Specific Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plans states, “a culture that connects each employee to the organization; encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness; and leverages diversity throughout the organization so that all individuals are able to participate and contribute to their full potential.” It further states OPM’s ultimate goal for workplace inclusion, “Cultivate a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness to enable individuals to contribute to their full potential and further retention.” Like diversity, inclusion is a work in progress.
Accessibility – Accessibility is traditionally thought of as Section 508 compliance, but the current administration is taking a broader look at who in society has access to and benefits from Federal programs, and is looking to provide broader access to communities and populations that have been underserved.
EO 13985 Section 2(b), “Underserved communities” refers to populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life …”
The EO also gives explicit guidance on the next steps agencies can take. Section 8: “The head of each agency shall evaluate opportunities, consistent with applicable law, to increase coordination, communication, and engagement with community-based organizations and civil rights organizations.”
Be the Change You Want to See
Nothing changes if nothing changes. Let’s begin the process of change by speaking to one another in an honest search for understanding. Education and training are the best way to alleviate misunderstanding. FELTG is focused on providing training that will promote Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility.
Look for our DEIA logo in our course descriptions to update your SES, supervisors, attorneys, HR team, unions, and staff on the latest information, and get ideas on how to implement DEIA topics at your agency. Together we can make the Federal workforce the model employer it is meant to be, and lead the workforce towards a more diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible future for all.
Our upcoming DEIA classes include:
- Nondiscriminatory Hiring in the Federal Workplace, June 9, 12:30 – 4:00 pm eastern
- The Supervisor’s Role in Diversity, Inclusion and EEO Compliance, June 16-17, 12:30 – 4:00 pm eastern
- Honoring Diversity: Ensuring Equity and Inclusion for LGBTQ Individuals, June 23, 1:00 – 3:00 pm eastern
- Webinar Series – Reasonable Accommodation in the Federal Workplace – July 15 – August 12, 1 PM eastern, 5, 1-hour Sessions each Thursday.
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