President Obama on Thursday issued an executive order requiring government agencies to develop plans for improving federal workforce diversity.
The administration has had diversity on its radar for a while and last year said it would take steps to build a more varied workforce. In fiscal 2009, according the federal government, white men held more than 61 percent of senior pay-level positions among workers. The long-awaited executive order marks the highest-profile response to what has been a perennial concern.
“The federal government has a special opportunity to lead by example,” John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, said in a conference call Thursday. “We will only succeed in our critical mission with a workforce that hails from, represents and is connected to the needs of every American community.”
The details of the initiative have yet to be worked out. Instead of creating a new administrative body, as did Obama’s 2009 executive order on veterans’ employment, the diversity initiative will lean on a council of deputy agency chiefs, along with the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
That group will be responsible for creating a government-wide plan within 90 days. According to the order, after the government-wide plan is released, each agency must present its own specific plan for diversity within 120 days. The plans must reflect initiatives on a number of issues, including recruitment, training and promotion.
Berry said the executive order elevates the issue to a level of attention that will prevent this initiative from falling by the wayside as have previous diversity efforts.