President Biden issued an executive order Friday to “advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across the Federal Government.”

The directive builds on Biden’s Inauguration Day promise for “an ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda,” according to a White House fact sheet accompanying the order. The White House statement said “the enduring legacies of employment discrimination, systemic racism, and gender inequality are still felt today. Too many underserved communities remain under-represented in the Federal workforce, especially in positions of leadership.” The order, the White House said, is designed to “take a systematic approach to embedding” diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in federal hiring and employment.

Not limited to diversity based on race and gender, the executive order includes, among others, immigrants, first-generation professionals, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, rural residents, seniors facing age discrimination and religious people who need workplace accommodations at work.

The order outlines various actions designed to enhance equity, including:

● Establishing a government-wide diversity and inclusion initiative in all areas of the government’s workforce that will be led by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

● Charging federal agencies with identifying, within 100 days, barriers to employment and developing strategic plans to eliminate them

● Reducing the government’s reliance on unpaid internships, which can create barriers for low-income students

● Advancing pay equity to ensure that all employees are fairly compensated.

Other points in the order require “a government-wide, comprehensive plan to address workplace harassment, including sexual harassment” and seek to advance federal workplace equity for LGBTQ+ employees and people with disabilities, according to the fact sheet. That includes, the order says, “equitable access to healthcare and health insurance coverage” for LGBTQ+ employees and their dependents.

“Each Federal employee should be able to openly express their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, and have these identities affirmed and respected, without fear of discrimination, retribution, or disadvantage,” the order says.

Biden directed OPM to examine any barriers to employment for former prisoners and to consider new ways to expand job opportunities for them.

“Individuals with prior convictions experience must be supported in accessing employment as they fully re-enter society,” according to the White House statement. “The Federal government has an important role to play in supporting formerly incarcerated individuals in fully reintegrating into society and making meaningful contributions to our country.”

Biden wants agencies to build “a more diverse pipeline into public service” by developing new recruitment partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities, and higher educational institutions serving Hispanics, Native Americans and women.

On his first day in office, Biden reversed a Trump administration order that effectively banned diversity training in federal agencies. Friday’s order instructs officials to expand diversity, equity and inclusion training to “enable Federal employees, managers, and leaders to have knowledge of systemic and institutional racism and bias against underserved communities.”

Pointing to a “historic number of diverse leaders” in the Biden administration, the White House said Friday’s “Executive Order will help develop a Federal workforce that looks like America[,] where qualified people from every background and walk of life have an equal opportunity to serve our Nation.”

“By embedding principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across the federal workforce, today’s Executive Order is a tremendous step towards a government that better reflects the nation it serves,” Susan Rice, head of the president’s Domestic Policy Council, told the Federal Insider by email. “If you’re a person with disabilities seeking equal access in the workplace, someone who was formerly incarcerated trying to get back on your feet — or just a young person who can’t afford an unpaid internship — these changes will make it easier for you to enter public service. That’s going to allow us to draw more fully on all of our national strength, and that’s a huge win for our entire country.”

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