In September 2022, the Chief Diversity and Inclusion officer of the U.S. Department of State, Gina Abercrobmie-Winstanley, released the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan, demonstrating the Department’s commitment to becoming a more inclusive employer.
The Department’s demonstrated commitment to DEIA began in April of 2021, when Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin appointed Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the department’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Her mission is to identify how the department can identify “cultural norms and systemic barriers that stifle diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in the Department.” The Department, which is the oldest cabinet agency in America, is made up of delegates who represent America across the globe. As such, the State Department itself must accurately represent the diverse American population.
The State’s new Chief Diversity Officer will “create more equitable and transparent processes for career advancement for Department employees, not just for underrepresented groups but for all employees.” Creating a more diverse Department of State workforce will also allow it to “effectively pursue our foreign policy goals and ensure our national security.”
A Plan for inclusive employment
To take steps to meet the DEIA goals announced in 2021, Abercrombie-Winstanley developed a concrete plan to become a more equitable workplace.
The Department has announced the creation and implementation of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan. This plan is the State’s response to the White House’s 2021 executive order mandating the enhancement of DEIA in the federal workforce.
“The Plan provides the roadmap for the Department to achieve its goals to recruit, hire, retain, and advance a workforce that not only reflects the diversity of our country, but also leverages the strength of that diversity to deliver for the American people.”
The Plan is organized by the agency’s four goals:
- Diversity -Increase the availability of data and analysis to identify areas of improvement and find track future progress.
- Equity -Fair recruitment, hiring, pay, promotion, and retention, and transparency in related processes.
- Inclusion -Inclusive employment practices in professional development and workplace culture both domestically and internationally.
- Accessibility -Creating workplaces that are accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities and of a variety of religions.
Actions for successful inclusive employment
According to Abercrombie-Winstanley, “Successful implementation of our DEIA strategy rests on three guiding principles: intentionality, transparency, and accountability.” The goal is for all department members to share the common goal to be more just, equitable, and accessible, to provide transparent evaluation and reporting on results, and to hold themselves accountable for these goals.”
Some of the actions Department members will take to achieve inclusive employment goals include:
- Conduct a comprehensive DEIA training needs assessment and benchmarking study.
- Develop and implement a plan to recruit underrepresented groups, including those with disabilities
- Conduct barrier analyses to identify potential barriers to equitable career outcomes at all phases of the employment cycle.
- Increase the accuracy of voluntarily self-reported demographic data by adding new categories to the Global Employment Management System.
- Create and announce DEIA performance requirements for Civil Service evaluations.
- Recognize DEIA achievements through awards
- Identify ways to make the Foreign Service examination process more accessible to persons with disabilities and those from economically challenged backgrounds.
- Identify methods to improve diversity representation on assessor teams and selection boards.
- Examine methods to improve objectivity in evaluations.
- Create a formal professional development feedback structure to improve manager performance.
- Examine methods to improve equity for training opportunities.
- Increase support for Foreign Service family members with disabilities, including the administration of the special needs education allowance.
- Examine and improve the quality, effectiveness, availability, and timeliness of the process by which employees request and receive accommodations.
- Develop and disseminate Department guidance on existing resources and supports to promote accessibility and disability inclusion including with senior leadership.
- Develop appropriate disability inclusion training based on DEIA needs assessment findings.
- Strengthen compliance on accessibility in all Department contracting, procurement, and acquisitions processes, including for hardware, software, and other devices or tools in secure spaces.
Inclusive employment practices for all companies
Many of these initiatives can be adopted by any organization. Training and evaluating current employees around DEIA topics helps develop and maintain an inclusive workplace for all. Implementing accessibility policies promotes a culture of inclusivity throughout the organization. This includes making information available and accessible to all employees, including those with disabilities.
The federal government should serve as an example to its public. These goals and objectives are also beneficial to companies that want to proactively address diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. In a tight labor market, companies can leverage inclusive recruitment and hiring practices to attract and retain top talent.
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