Workforce

Sweeping executive order covers diversity, inclusion, equity and accessibility in the federal workforce

White House rainbow light shutterstock ID : 1130423963 By zhephotography 

An executive order issued last Friday directs the federal government to ramp up diversity training, rethink the use salary history as a basis for pay determinations and supply gender non-conforming and non-binary and transgender feds with employee credentials that reflect their current names, pictures and pronouns.

The sweeping order calls for a strategic plan to set standards and identify strategies for advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility and eliminating equity barriers within 150 days. It'll be updated at least every four years. The order also instructs a review of current policies for the collection of feds' demographic data and potentially modify it for more expansive collection.

The Biden administration doesn't require agency chief diversity officers in the order, but recommends that government agencies "seek opportunities" to establish such positions.

The government is also tasked with improving the pipeline of minority candidates into government through partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities and other institutions of higher learning with concentrations of Hispanic, Asian-American and Pacific-islander students, as well as students from Native American tribes. Additionally, the government is charged to explore partnerships with institutions that serve people with disabilities – just one aspect of the order that looks to attract people with disabilities to government service.

"This executive order will help in our efforts to recruit, retain, and honor the most effective workforce, one in which federal employees from all backgrounds and walks of life feel included and valued," newly confirmed Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja said in a statement. She added that, " "these types of efforts are best practices for major employers across sectors seeking to stay competitive in the marketplace."

Diversity training push

Diversity training was a flashpoint in the Trump administration after the former president issued an executive order banning certain types of diversity and inclusion training for feds, contractors and federal grant recipients. Biden repealed the order soon after taking office.

The new order affirms the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion training that instills "knowledge of systemic and institutional racism and bias against underserved communities," and increase "understanding of implicit and unconscious bias."

The order also sets the stage for the Office of Personnel Management and the Defense Department to provide "comprehensive gender-affirming care," through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and the Military Health System as part of push for healthcare equity.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is tasked with an update of federal employee identification standards to make sure that employee ID credentials "account for the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming and non-binary employees" and tells agency heads to update standards to include non-binary gender options. The order also directs agency heads to "explore opportunities to expand the availability of gender non-binary facilities and restrooms in federally owned and leased workplaces."

It also tells the director of National Intelligence to mitigate barriers in security clearance and background investigation process for LGBTQ+ employees, "in particular transgender and gender non-conforming and non-binary employees and applicants."

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.

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