The Foreign Service Journal, September 2014

52 SEPTEMBER 2014 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL STATE VP VOICE | BY MATTHEW ASADA AFSA NEWS Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP. Contact: | (202) 647-8160 | @matthewasada Diversity in the Foreign Service Diversity does not happen on its own. Rather, it takes a conscientious effort to reach out and include people from different backgrounds with diverse perspectives. The nation’s public and private sector employers recognize that diversity is good policy and good business. They have expanded their efforts from strict affirmative action/equal employment opportunity compliance to more compre- hensive support of diversity promotion and inclusion. Now let’s see how AFSA and State are doing. AFSA . AFSA is embrac- ing diversity in policy and personnel, both internally as an organization and externally in its advocacy. Last year, the AFSA Governing Board incor- porated multiple diversity objectives in its 2013-2015 Strategic Plan (http://bit. ly/1nFz7tl). At the same time the organization’s staff and elected leadership have grown significantly more diverse. One-quarter of recent AFSA hires are from diverse backgrounds, and a majority of the State representatives on the Governing Board are women or from non-majority backgrounds. AFSA is also continuing its public outreach on diversity. On June 12, AFSA organized a panel discussion on diversity in the Foreign Service on Capitol Hill (see p. 71), and last August the association organized a showing of a 1964 USIA film commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March onWashington (see October 2013 FSJ ) . State. The State Depart- ment has also made impor- tant strides on the diversity front in policy and personnel. The department published its first diversity and inclusion strategic plan in response to President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13583 ( and is currently drafting its 2015 follow-up. The director general has included diversity promotion as one of the top three priori- ties for the Bureau of Human Resources. But, while officer and specialist classes are the most diverse ever, there con- tinue to be underrepresented groups in the Foreign Ser- vice (see Part I of the State Department’s 2012 MD-715 submission to the EEOC at . To improve diversity, AFSA recommends that State improve the collection, analy- sis and publication of diver- sity demographic data; revise the diversity and inclusion reporting process; and reform policies and procedures that may have a disparate impact on certain groups of employ- ees, in particular, assignment restrictions/preclusions and pass-through programs. Demographic Data. State HR’s Office of Resource Man- agement and Analysis com- piles and publishes diversity data covering race/ethnicity/ gender/skill code. In the past, State Magazine has also pub- lished a portion of that data with its diversity analysis of the results from the Summer Selection Boards; and AFSA encourages the department to resume such practice. AFSA has encouraged State to improve the demo- graphic data covering recruit- ment, hiring, promotion and training in the Foreign Service with greater data granularity by bureau, overseas/domestic location, skill code and length of service. AFSA is concerned that the statistics currently compiled at the bureau and service level may mask dis- parities at or in certain offices, posts, or skill codes and over- or under-represent women or certain ethnicities. Reports. State currently has two primary reporting mechanisms for diversity: the annual MD-715 reports to the Equal Employment Opportu- nity Commission and the tri- ennial diversity and inclusion strategic plan. AFSA supports the depart- ment’s efforts to split the current MD-715 report into two separate components to better address the diversity challenges presented by its Foreign Service and Civil Service workforces. It recom- mends the department review the organizational structure and responsibility for these two separate reports to see how the overall reporting efforts may be improved. Finally, AFSA would like to see more continuity between reports, so that follow-on reports address progress made on priorities previously identified. Program Reform. The department has a responsibil- ity to address programs or procedures that appear to be disparately impacting a certain group of employees. AFSA has heard from several employees and affinity groups regarding their concern with the department’s assignment restriction/preclusion and pass-through programs. AFSA has written to the department outlining its concerns (see Feb. 27 letter at , urging it to improve the communica- tions, oversight and reporting on these programs and to introduce a robust appeals mechanism for employees. For more on this issue, see AFSA’s policy paper online at America needs and deserves a diverse, profes- sional and innovative Foreign Service capable of tackling the challenges of the 21st century. I welcome your diversity suggestions as we continue this conversation. (For more on Diversity and Diplomacy, see the author’s contribution to the January 2012 FSJ at fsj0112p52.) n Next month: Conversions and the Foreign Service