Diversity Within The Senior Executive Service

OCTOBER 15, 2003

Good morning Madam Chairman and members of the subcommittee, and thank you for the opportunity to testify today on behalf of the General Services Administration (GSA).  I am privileged to serve as GSA’s Chief People Officer, and I am also designated as our agency’s Chief Human Capital Officer.

GAO is absolutely correct when they write that “diversity can be an organizational strength that contributes to achieving results.”  In addition, diversity among the leaders of an organization sets a positive and visible example for the rest of the organization to follow, and to emulate.

The desire to encourage and increase racial, ethnic, gender and other types of diversity in the Federal workforce, including diversity at the senior executive levels, is explicit in guidance that governs much of my daily work.  The President’s Management Agenda includes an initiative for the strategic management of human capital, and this initiative establishes the goal of “a diverse workforce, including mission critical occupations and leadership.”

GSA’s Human Capital Strategic Plan, first published in August of last year, focuses on seven specific aspects of human capital management.  Two of the seven aspects are executive leadership and diversity.  Our goal, as stated in the plan, is “to ensure that we have a diverse workforce.”  Our plan is “to continually assess our workforce and take steps to ensure that there is appropriate representation by minorities, women and other identified groups in the GSA workforce as a whole, and at various grade levels,” including the Senior Executive Service.

GAO’s report showed that as of October 1, 2000, 13.8 percent of Federal career executives were minorities and 23.6 percent were women.  At that time, GSA’s numbers were slightly better than the average – 14.3 percent were minorities and 28.6 percent were women.  On September 30, 2003 – three years later – GSA’s numbers have regrettably declined for minorities at 10 percent, but improved for women at 28.8 percent.  There is ample room for improvement.

As career senior executives leave the GSA workforce, their vacant positions are filled from inside GSA or from other sources outside the agency.  We are focusing our efforts on attracting a pool of diverse candidates from both directions.  Inside GSA, our Leadership Institute offers developmental programs for supervisors and managers that comprise our principal internal “feeder group” for the Senior Executive Service.  More specifically, we are learning how to more effectively ensure that GSA associates who compete for selection into our Advanced Leadership Development Program represent a diverse cross-section of our workforce.  In our external recruitment efforts, we are maximizing the use of web-based technology and other supplemental methods of communication to reach out to new and previously untapped sources of highly qualified candidates.

As required by the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002, GSA is implementing increased accountability for violations of anti-discrimination and whistleblower protection laws.  We are moving forward with plans to effectively implement the “No Fear” Act, based upon interim regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and anticipated guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.  For example, our Associate Administrator for Civil Rights just last week briefed senior GSA leadership about the law, and will continue to share updated information with them as implementation plans evolve.  We are developing an e-learning module for GSA's "On-Line University" website to educate all GSA associates about the Act.  In addition, our Office of Civil Rights has installed a new database that will capture and report the data required by the Act.

In their model, GAO examined career Senior Executive Service appointment trends between Fiscal Years 1995 and 2000.  They projected that, based upon those trends, the proportion of minority men and women in the career Senior Executive Service will remain “virtually unchanged” between today and the year 2007.  That poses a challenge for agency leaders throughout the Federal government.   We will be successful in meeting the challenge of creating a more diverse Federal workforce if – at a future date – GAO’s projection is proven to have been incorrect, and all members of the Federal workforce consider themselves to be well protected from discrimination.  I look forward to that date.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before your subcommittee today, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.


Last Reviewed 2010-04-30