IGs Proud of Diversity; Davis Wants More

Posted September 16, 2008 at 6:39pm

Officials from legislative branch agencies reported Tuesday that their organizations are about as diverse as the executive branch and on track to improve — but some Members still think more should be done to boost the number of women and minorities in top positions.

Inspectors general who testified at an Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing said their agencies were, for the most part, following the “best practices” for increasing diversity. And, they added, diversity has been improving since 2002.

But Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, called that assessment “a slightly more optimistic picture than is warranted.”

“I’d like to caution the legislative branch agencies in comparing themselves to the executive branch when it comes to diversity in [senior positions],” Davis said. “The executive branch is doing poorly in that regard and legislative branch agencies are only doing slightly better.”

About eight months ago, Davis directed the IGs to review the effectiveness and independence of their agencies’ diversity offices. Their conclusion: Diversity is improving, but some agencies need a better framework to track progress and ensure the promotion of women and minorities.

As of fiscal 2007, 6.8 percent of the agencies’ senior officials were minorities and 35.8 percent were women. That’s more than the government-wide percentage.

But the percentage of minorities has actually decreased or stagnated in most offices since fiscal 2002. And in all agencies, the percentage of minorities in the top ranks — including positions such as deputy director, which pays about $150,000 a year — was lower than that of the work force as a whole.

“All agencies, I think, must do a better job of putting minority workers on track for promotion,” Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said Tuesday. “The agencies should strive to maintain equivalent levels of the work force.”

The Government Accountability Office, Library of Congress, Architect of the Capitol, Government Printing Office and Capitol Police all have plans to increase the diversity of their top ranks in the future.

But the inspectors general found that some lack certain elements of a comprehensive diversity plan — such as diversity training, holding leaders accountable and tools to measure the effectiveness of diversity programs.

So each IG made recommendations for its own agency. For example, the IG for the Capitol Police recommended that the agency create a formal diversity program, while the AOC’s IG recommended an affirmative employment program (which the agency has already implemented).

But on Tuesday, Members seemed specifically worried about the employees who have worked at the agencies for decades — those who may have been passed over for promotions during an earlier time of discrimination.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) recalled working at the GPO more than 30 years ago as a student and meeting a “lot of frustrated people who were permanently employed there who could not see themselves moving up.”

“Are we pulling on the work force that we have or are we just passing them by?” he said. “What happens to them? Do they just stay there and die?”