The Foreign Service Journal, April 2022

54 APRIL 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL The Need for Data-Driven DEIA Decisions STATE VP VOICE | BY TOM YAZDGERDI AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 647-8160 There has been much talk from State Department lead- ership lately about ensuring that decisions regarding diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) are driven by hard data. Of course, decisions should not be based on data alone, but AFSA agrees that this approach makes sense. We have been working closely with the office of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Gina Abercrombie- Winstanley to educate our- selves and our membership about initiatives prioritizing data that can be applied to help make the Foreign Service more reflective of the American people. DEIA Data Working Group’s Barrier Analyses. One way data can help promote diversity is through barrier analyses, studies that can identify barriers to advancement based on race and gender. In an early Febru- ary meeting with AFSA, CDIO staff briefed us on five stud- ies the department’s DEIA Data Working Group is con- ducting in both the Foreign Service and Civil Service. Three FS analyses are mid-level bidding, long-term career outcomes and the pro- vision of awards. (Two of the five analyses deal exclusively with the Civil Service.) CDIO staff told us they now have a trove of demographic data on mid-level bidding going back years that could determine if gender or race affect bidding outcomes. CDIO focused on this area because something appears to be happening at mid-career that results in a lack of diversity in the department, particularly at the senior ranks. While diversity in recruitment has improved markedly, CDIO staff noted that the Senior Foreign Service is still over- whelmingly white and male. Regarding long-term career outcomes, CDIO staff are studying cohorts that entered the Foreign Service at five-year increments and then tracing career progres- sion, again controlling for gender and race. The barrier analysis on awards is still in the planning phase. CDIO emphasized that barrier analyses are a key tool for advancing DEIA at State as they can identify what policies and procedures might need to be changed to ensure all employees have an equitable chance at career development. Given that, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (S/ODI) has hired a data scientist and intends to bring on more. CDIO noted that greater diversity at State may not happen overnight, but that every single year can show progress. January 2020 GAO Report . CDIO also briefed us on the four barrier analy- ses pre-dating the CDIO’s establishment that were conducted by the GTM Bureau in response to the January 2020 Government Accountability Office’s report on diversity at State ( GAO2020). CDIO noted that the evidence did not necessarily support the GAO assertion that FS promotions from FS-04 to FS-03 showed a clear and consistent dispar- ity based on race. While a particular year might show a variation, when the depart- ment did its own analysis there was no demonstrated trend. The other two FS analyses have to do with those who take the Foreign Service Officer Test and are offered a position after completing the oral assessment. CDIO and the DEIA Data Working Group are committed to making the barrier analyses available to the workforce when com- plete. (GAO is currently at work on a follow-up to their January 2020 report.) AFSA’s Take. With access to data and the people who know how to analyze it, the Foreign Service is in a posi- tion to make progress. We agree with S/ODI’s focus on fixing fundamental processes related to the career cycle of our employees rather than on quick fixes. AFSA has seen previous quick-fix efforts, such as the creation of a mid-level entry program, fail to achieve real progress and weaken the Foreign Service as an institution. With S/ODI’s data driven approach, we will likely be more effective at finding out what is needed instead of just guessing at what a solution might look like. It may indicate that underrep- resented and underprivileged groups do not have the same access to career mentors, that they continue to experi- ence microaggressions in the workplace, or that the diver- sity training being provided is not effective. The bottom line is that we know there is a problem— and there are likely additional data studies that can be done to demonstrate this and point to possible solutions. To communicate the barrier analyses and other diversity information to the department workforce, CDIO agreed to report on their conclusions in an upcoming edition of the FSJ . Please let us know what you think at member@afsa. org. n With access to data and the people who know how to analyze it, the Foreign Service is in a position to make progress.