26 September 2023

UNITED STATES: Department in denial over diversity

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A new report has found the US Department of State is failing in its efforts to increase diversity among its employees.

The report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent Federal watchdog, said that in some cases there had been a decline in the percentage of women and ethnic and racial minorities employed.

The study is expected to ramp up pressure on the State Department from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who originally requested it.

The GAO’s report appears to contradict statements from Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and some of his predecessors, who touted the importance of recruiting a pool of talent for the State Department that extended ‘beyond white men’.

In an email to employees in November 2019, Mr Pompeo said the Department was “building an increasingly diverse team”.

In September 2018, then Policy Planning Director, Kiron Skinner (pictured) said “given some trends in the US against diversity — especially racial diversity — the State Department is doing much better”.

Ms Skinner, one of the most senior-ranking African American women in the Administration of President Donald Trump, was removed from her post in August 2019.

Senior State Department officials have repeatedly said in public that they are prioritising diversity at the Department and that it is a work in progress.

The Department has several long-standing initiatives to do so, including a diplomat-in-residence program in which ambassadors serve as recruiters at universities, and an emphasis on recruiting from historically black colleges and Hispanic-serving universities.

However, some critics say those initiatives are falling short, particularly in retaining employees from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Washington, 26 February 2020

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