Workforce diversity part of GPO transformation

Only a year ago, the top echelon of the Government Printing Office could have been an all-boys club. But, oh, how things have changed.

When Bruce James came into office as public printer of the United States 18 months ago, he asked his top deputies to evaluate how GPO was structured. He discovered that although the agency's business processes had changed, its structure had not, according to Judy Russell, the first female superintendent of documents.

Months after taking office, James decided it was time to transform GPO and make it look more like today's labor pool — a total workforce that is nearly equally made up of women and men. In a short period of time, the number of women executives at GPO almost doubled.

"The transformation that he was envisioning for us and the efforts we were making to reorganize meant that we were hiring new people and realigning people," said Russell, who also became the first woman to head an operating entity within GPO when she was named superintendent in 2003. "It gave both men and women the opportunity to apply for new positions, and with that, a number of women [were] brought into the senior-level service."

The transformation also gave James a chance to consolidate functions and retool responsibilities, Russell said. The changes included a centralized acquisition office, a single bibliographic service and a preservation office that focuses on permanent public access, she said.

GPO is responsible for the production and distribution of more than 250,000 federal documents. As the Digital Age evolves, the government is moving from a paper-based entity to an electronic one. Along the way, redundancies are being eliminated.

"As we transform the agency into a state-of-the-art information distribution facility, we are looking at workforce development and training practices that move the agency and its...workforce into the future," said Robert Carr, GPO's chief human capital officer.

But the biggest change occurred in the makeup of the workforce, Russell said. When James named her superintendent, "it certainly sent a very strong signal that it was appropriate for women to be in these roles," she said. "The rest happened very naturally."

GPO spokeswoman Veronica Meter said that in the past, no one set out "not to hire a woman. There weren't women ready in the queue." But now, she said, there are.

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