The Foreign Service Journal - September 2014 - page 52

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.
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Diversity in the Foreign Service
Diversity does not happen
on its own. Rather, it takes a
conscientious effort to reach
out and include people from
different backgrounds with
diverse perspectives. The
nation’s public and private
sector employers recognize
that diversity is good policy
and good business. They have
expanded their efforts from
strict affirmative action/equal
employment opportunity
compliance to more compre-
hensive support of diversity
promotion and inclusion. Now
let’s see how AFSA and State
are doing.
. AFSA is embrac-
ing diversity in policy and
personnel, both internally as
an organization and externally
in its advocacy. Last year, the
AFSA Governing Board incor-
porated multiple diversity
objectives in its 2013-2015
At the same time the
organization’s staff and
elected leadership have
grown significantly more
diverse. One-quarter of recent
AFSA hires are from diverse
backgrounds, and a majority
of the State representatives
on the Governing Board are
women or from non-majority
AFSA is also continuing its
public outreach on diversity.
On June 12, AFSA organized a
panel discussion on diversity
in the Foreign Service on
Capitol Hill (see p. 71), and
last August the association
organized a showing of a 1964
USIA film commemorating
the 50th anniversary of the
March onWashington (see
The State Depart-
ment has also made impor-
tant strides on the diversity
front in policy and personnel.
The department published its
first diversity and inclusion
strategic plan in response to
President Barack Obama’s
Executive Order 13583
and is currently drafting its
2015 follow-up.
The director general has
included diversity promotion
as one of the top three priori-
ties for the Bureau of Human
Resources. But, while officer
and specialist classes are the
most diverse ever, there con-
tinue to be underrepresented
groups in the Foreign Ser-
vice (see Part I of the State
Department’s 2012 MD-715
submission to the EEOC at
To improve diversity, AFSA
recommends that State
improve the collection, analy-
sis and publication of diver-
sity demographic data; revise
the diversity and inclusion
reporting process; and reform
policies and procedures that
may have a disparate impact
on certain groups of employ-
ees, in particular, assignment
restrictions/preclusions and
pass-through programs.
Demographic Data.
HR’s Office of Resource Man-
agement and Analysis com-
piles and publishes diversity
data covering race/ethnicity/
gender/skill code. In the past,
State Magazine
has also pub-
lished a portion of that data
with its diversity analysis of
the results from the Summer
Selection Boards; and AFSA
encourages the department
to resume such practice.
AFSA has encouraged
State to improve the demo-
graphic data covering recruit-
ment, hiring, promotion and
training in the Foreign Service
with greater data granularity
by bureau, overseas/domestic
location, skill code and length
of service. AFSA is concerned
that the statistics currently
compiled at the bureau and
service level may mask dis-
parities at or in certain offices,
posts, or skill codes and over-
or under-represent women or
certain ethnicities.
State currently
has two primary reporting
mechanisms for diversity: the
annual MD-715 reports to the
Equal Employment Opportu-
nity Commission and the tri-
ennial diversity and inclusion
strategic plan.
AFSA supports the depart-
ment’s efforts to split the
current MD-715 report into
two separate components to
better address the diversity
challenges presented by its
Foreign Service and Civil
Service workforces. It recom-
mends the department review
the organizational structure
and responsibility for these
two separate reports to see
how the overall reporting
efforts may be improved.
Finally, AFSA would like to
see more continuity between
reports, so that follow-on
reports address progress
made on priorities previously
Program Reform.
department has a responsibil-
ity to address programs or
procedures that appear to
be disparately impacting a
certain group of employees.
AFSA has heard from several
employees and affinity groups
regarding their concern with
the department’s assignment
restriction/preclusion and
pass-through programs.
AFSA has written to the
department outlining its
concerns (see Feb. 7 letter at
), urging
it to improve the communica-
tions, oversight and reporting
on these programs and to
introduce a robust appeals
mechanism for employees.
For more on this issue, see
AFSA’s policy paper online at
America needs and
deserves a diverse, profes-
sional and innovative Foreign
Service capable of tackling
the challenges of the 21st
century. I welcome your
diversity suggestions as we
continue this conversation.
(For more on Diversity and
Diplomacy, see the author’s
contribution to the January
Next month: Conversions
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