Wednesday, September 10, 2008

No Blacks in the 7th Floor?

This is a Secretary of State that does not make waves when she speaks (unlike her counterpart, my favorite SecDef, across the river). So I was caught by surprise when on September 8, her "Remarks at the Annual Conference of the White House Initiative on National Historically Black Colleges and Universities " (whew! that's a mouthful!), caught on in the blogosphere. Below is an excerpt of that speech which caused the buzz. She said (ta-da ~~):

"Still, I hope that this will expand. It is our hope that more historically black colleges and universities and their students and faculty will take advantage of this opportunity because it’s good for the students, but it’s good for America, too. Because when I go around the world, I want very much to see black Americans involved in the development and the promotion of our foreign policy. I want to see a Foreign Service that looks as if black Americans are part of this great country. (Applause.)

I have lamented that I can go into a meeting at the Department of State and, as a matter of fact, I can go into a whole day of meetings at the Department of State and actually rarely see somebody who looks like me, and that’s just not acceptable. And so -- (Applause.)"

Now, you see why this would cause a buzz? A whole day of meetings and rarely seeing any other black person? So that made me curious. Can that really be so? How many blacks or for that matter minorities, are there in the State Department? I had to do some dumpster diving elsewhere; they certainly don't make it easy to find any of this information in the website. In 1998, OPM reported a total of 15,104 State Department employees of which 22.7% were minorities. The minorities were broken down into Black at 2,258 (14.9%), Hispanic at 591 (3.9%), Asian at 515 (3.4%) and American Indian at 65 employees or 0.4%. The more recent data I could find is dated 2004 and was published in the 2005 Factbook. It indicated that the Department had 23,977 total employees of which 26% were minorities. The breakdown is as follows: Black: 3,633 (15.2%), Hispanic: 1,270 (5.3%), Asian:1,236 (5.2%) and American Indian whose number remained at 0.4%. I don't know how much this numbers have moved in the last three years, but if my arithmetic is right, there were 1,375 more black employees in the agency when the Secretary came to office. I can't imagine not seeing any one of those employees in the course of the day. The only reasons I could think of that would make that statement possible is if 1) they had forward deployed all 3,633 African American employees to overseas locations in 2005 when she came into office or, 2) they have built a bubble in the 7th floor and she parachuted in (and out?) of Foggy Bottom in the last four years. This is giving me a headache, people. Are there secret pipes and tunnels around there that I don't know about? Seriously, the gains have been slow, but it's there; she almost sounded as if nothing has been done prior to her tenure. A lot more needs to be done, of course, I have no quarrel with that. Among the executive departments, the Department of Housing and Urban and Housing Development was the most diverse with 49.6% of its employees consisting of minorities. This was followed by the Department of Education at 45% and HHS at 44.2%. The top bottom when it comes to its share of minority employees are: Agriculture at 21.6%, Transportation at 21.8% and Energy at 22.8%. The State Department comes at the lower tier at 26%. Again, I should note that these numbers were published in 2005 and these departments records may have improved since then. But - while digging around, I found this gem from the GAO about diversity management. Of the experts in the field of diversity management they spoke with or whose publications they reviewed to identify leading diversity management practices, a majority cited the following leading practices:

Top leadership commitment —a vision of diversity demonstrated and communicated throughout an organization by top-level management

Diversity as part of an organization’s strategic plan —a diversity strategy and plan that are developed and aligned with the organization’s strategic plan.

Diversity linked to performance —the understanding that a more diverse and inclusive work environment can yield greater productivity and help improve individual and organizational performance.

Measurement —a set of quantitative and qualitative measures of the impact of various aspects of an overall diversity program.

Accountability —the means to ensure that leaders are responsible for diversity by linking their performance assessment and compensation to the progress of diversity initiatives.

Succession planning —an ongoing, strategic process for identifying and developing a diverse pool of talent for an organization’s potential future leaders.

Recruitment —the process of attracting a supply of qualified, diverse applicants for employment.

Employee involvement —the contribution of employees in driving diversity throughout an organization.

Diversity training —organizational efforts to inform and educate management and staff about diversity.

Perhaps one more list for 67th?

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