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Report on Diversity

By Mike Causey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 15, 1997; Page B02

Uncle Sam was one of the first employers to be officially colorblind and gender-neutral. But although agencies don't require workers to label themselves, they carefully track and record race, sex and ethnic data.

Call it the don't-ask-but-do-tell system.

Federal workers are asked (not required) to fill out a "Race and National Origin Identification" form. It asks for name, Social Security number and whether the employee is "American Indian/Alaskan Native; Asian/Pacific Islander; Black, not of Hispanic origin; Hispanic; White, not of Hispanic origin." People of mixed race are told to pick the group "with which you most closely identify yourself."

Feds who don't fill out the form (most do) are scrutinized by supervisors, who make the call. The confidential information goes to the Office of Personnel Management's diversity office.

Although the program has been in effect for years, it has peaked in importance since the Clinton administration announced plans to make government smaller and more diverse. Agencies slowed hiring and paid 130,000 workers buyouts worth an average of $23,000 to retire. At the same time, they stepped up their hiring of minorities. Without the buyouts, diversity gains would have been wiped out.

Diversity numbers will be important as agencies decide how many employees -- and which employees -- will get buyout and early-retirement offers starting in October.

OPM monitors the diversity standing of all agencies. If an agency's percentage of women and minority employees equals or exceeds those groups' standing in the national work force, those groups are "fully represented." If not, those groups are considered "underrepresented."

Women are underrepresented if they hold fewer than 46.3 percent of an agency's jobs. Blacks are underrepresented if they hold fewer than 10.5 percent of an agency's jobs.

Government-wide, women hold 42.9 percent of nonpostal federal jobs; blacks hold 17 percent of those jobs.

Here are other tidbits from the government's diversity report card:

Hispanics are underrepresented in the government because they account for 6 percent of federal employees, compared with 10.5 percent of the national work force. American Indians are fully represented because they make up 1.7 percent of federal employees, compared with 0.8 percent of the national work force.

Asians and Pacific Islanders make up 3.4 percent of federal employees, compared with 4 percent of the national work force.

Blacks are fully represented in these departments: Defense (not including the Army, Navy and Air Force), 20.1 percent; Education, 37 percent; Energy, 12.4 percent; Health and Human Services, 17.9 percent; Housing and Urban Development, 32 percent; and Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs. Blacks are underrepresented in Agriculture. They are fully represented in the Army (14.6 of civilian workers) and Navy (13.2 percent of civilian workers) and underrepresented in the Air Force (10 percent).

Women are fully represented at HHS, Education and HUD, holding about 60 percent of the jobs in each, and in Defense (again excluding the service branches), Labor, Treasury and Veterans Affairs. They are underrepresented in the departments of State, Transportation, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Justice and Energy, as well as in the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Hispanics are fully represented only at Justice. American Indians are underrepresented only in Education, Justice, Labor and State. Asians and Pacific Islanders are underrepresented at Agriculture, Education, Justice, Interior, HUD, Treasury, Labor, State and Transportation and in the Air Force.

The numbers don't reflect grade or pay averages. Despite recent gains, women and most minorities in government are still concentrated in lower-paying jobs.

Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Co.

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