If a federal hiring trend continues, one organization might want to consider changing its name.
FEW is the acronym for Federally Employed Women. “Even Fewer” might be a more descriptive handle because of the falling percentage of women joining Uncle Sam’s ranks in recent years.
From 2000 to 2012, the percentage of female hires dropped six percentage points, from 43 percent to 37 percent, according to a Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) report.
“The decreasing numbers of women being hired are surely going to impact diversity at the higher levels of the government, as they will not be entering the ‘feeder’ pools,” said Janet Kopenhaver, FEW’s Washington representative. “Failure to hire women starting out in their careers will result in a serious dearth of female applicants in the future for SES [Senior Executive Service] positions.”
The SES is the top level of the federal civil service. Women account for only about 30 percent of its ranks. About 44 percent of the federal workforce is female.
One factor in female hiring is the Obama administration's push to hire veterans.
“Our research shows that as use of veterans hiring authorities increased, the percentage of female new hires decreased,” said the MSPB, noting that the active-duty military is more than 80 percent male.
Overreliance on too few hiring mechanisms, such as those that give preference to veterans, “may not be healthy for an organization’s culture, as those authorities may not result in a workforce that is representative of society,” the MSPB said. “Agencies should take care when hiring the majority of their employees through just one or two authorities that limit eligibility to a particular segment of society.”
In certain occupations, including information technology, engineering and policing, men were 80 percent or more of new hires.
“This certainly is an ominous trend,” Kopenhaver said, “and is further proof that women still are not breaking into those non-traditional female jobs like IT technology.”
Stories about federal whistleblowers often are tales of seemingly endless and sometimes nonsensical reprisals against employees trying to do the right thing by exposing waste, fraud and abuse.
This time, the good guy is winning.
After many years, Franz Gayl’s story has reached a happy settlement. Although it is a victory for Gayl, it’s not quite a fully happy ending, at least not yet.
Gayl is the Marine Corps civilian scientist whose widely reported complaints about lax efforts to provide protective equipment to U.S. forces in Iraq were met with reprisal. Through an Office of Special Counsel (OSC) mediation program, he and the service have agreed to settle charges that the Marines retaliated against him.
The settlement “not only vindicates me but also my loyalty and dedication to the Marines, which never wavered,” said Gayl, a retired Marine Corps major.
When the special counsel moved in 2011 to stop Gayl from being suspended without pay, the agency said Gayle “blew the whistle on the failure of the Marine Corps to timely provide Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to our troops in Iraq.”
Rather than thanking him for taking action to save U.S. lives, the Marines treated him almost like an enemy.
“Gayl paid a nightmarish price for his MRAP disclosures, even though he was acting at the direction of America’s top field general in Iraq, who had been unable to secure delivery of the lifesaving vehicles for well over a year,” said a statement from the Government Accountability Project (GAP), which represents him. “From 2007-2014 Gayl endured a reprimand, several suspensions, a criminal investigation, threats of removal for unacceptable performance, removal of duties, partial loss of his security clearance credentials, proposed demotion and salary cutoff, and other forms of harassment.”
GAP’s news release said “this victory would not have occurred” without the OSC Alternative Dispute Resolution program.
Yet, despite GAP’s congratulatory words, Gayl continues to pay a price for his actions. His victory is not whole.
“Currently the facts of life are that he has his clearance [to read classified information] but doesn’t have ‘access’ to get into the room where they’re kept,” Tom Devine, GAP’s legal director, said by e-mail. Gayl’s fight is “not necessarily over,” he added.
A significant part of the settlement is Gayl’s appointment to a panel that will help the Marines implement whistleblower protections for federal staffers.
“In my experience, it is unprecedented to appoint a whistleblower to help any agency develop policy for whistleblower rights, let alone a military service,” Devine said. “The Marines deserve credit where it is due. This victory would not have occurred without the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.”
The Marine Corps was less celebratory, saying only that it had “successfully resolved Mr. Gayl’s complaints through the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s mediation program. The Marine Corps does not normally discuss terms of such resolutions.”
When asked if anyone who retaliated against Gayl was disciplined, a Marine spokesman did not respond.
Eric Yoder contributed to this column. Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.