The Foreign Service Journal, June 2022

32 JUNE 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Payne Fellows and alums have created a dynamic new employee resource group that is working to boost recruitment and retention of diverse FSOs. BY MAR I E LA MED I NA CASTE L LANOS Mariela Medina Castellanos is a USAID Foreign Service officer engineer in the Regional Economic Growth Office of the USAID West Africa Mission. She is a 2016 Payne Fellow and currently serves as the awareness raising chair for the Payne Fellowship Network Employee Resource Group. A t the U.S. Agency for International Development, the nationally competi- tive Payne Fellowship continues to be a vital part of the effort to achieve a workforce that is representa- tive of the rich diversity of the United States. The agency’s only Foreign Ser- vice hiring and recruitment mecha- nism targeting underrepresented groups, the fellowship aims to attract outstanding leaders from diverse backgrounds to international development careers at the agency. The Payne Fellowship turns 10 this year. It is modeled after the Pickering and Rangel Fellowships at the Department of State and, as such, is a critical mechanism for enhancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) in the agency’s Foreign Service. It is highly selective, with an acceptance rate less than 1 percent— lower than that of USAID’s Foreign Service. USAID has made steadily increasing investments in the Payne Fellowship program, which enjoys bipartisan congressional sup- port that transcends changes from one administration to the next, since its inception in 2012. The agency’s recent commitment to double the number of fellowships is an important step to achiev- ing a representative workforce. About 50 Payne Fellowship alumni currently serve at USAID across 15 Foreign Service backstops. They serve in Foreign Service officer roles ranging from technical project managers to office directors in USAIDmissions worldwide; they also serve as advis- ers to USAID’s front office in Washington, D.C., and support vari- ous employee resource groups in their endeavors to further the agency’s DEIA agenda. It has become apparent, however, that recruitment of Payne Fellows, by itself, is not enough. Diverse FSOs face problems of equity, inclusion and accessibility in tenure and promotion that, among other things, affect retention rates. In 2020, a group of Payne alumni created the Payne Fellowship Network, an employee resource group, to proactively tackle these challenges head-on, addressing obstacles throughout the course of the Payne Fellows’ USAID career. The Payne Fellowship Network Advancing DEIAat USAID FOCUS A PROGRESS REPORT ON DIVERSITY