Efforts to Enhance Diversity and Ensure a Fair and Inclusive Workplace at GAO
GAO-07-901T: Published: May 22, 2007. Publicly Released: May 22, 2007.
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Vigorous enforcement of anti-discrimination laws remains an essential responsibility of government. Moreover, diversity in the federal government can be a key component for executing agency missions and achieving results. Not only is it the right thing to do, but an inclusive work environment can improve retention, reduce turnover, increase our ability to recruit, and improve overall organizational effectiveness. In 2001, the Comptroller General changed the name of the Office of Civil Rights to the Office of Opportunity and Inclusiveness and gave the office responsibility for creating a fair and inclusive work environment by incorporating diversity principles in GAO's strategic plan and throughout our human capital policies. Along with this new strategic mission, the Comptroller General changed organizational alignment of the Office of Opportunity and Inclusiveness (O&I) by having the office report directly to him.
Despite our continuing efforts to ensure a level playing field at GAO, more needs to be done. The data show that for 2002 to 2005 the most significant differences in average appraisal ratings were among African-Americans at all bands for most years compared with Caucasian analysts. Furthermore, the rating data for entry level staff show a difference in ratings for African-Americans in comparison to Caucasian staff at the entry-level from the first rating, with the gap widening in subsequent ratings. These differences are inconsistent with the concerted effort to hire analysts with very similar qualifications, educational backgrounds, and skill sets. In June 2006, we held an Senior Executive Service (SES) off-site meeting specifically focusing on concerns regarding the performance ratings of our African-American staff. Shortly thereafter, the Comptroller General decided that in view of the importance of this issue, GAO should undertake an independent, objective, third-party assessment of the factors influencing the average rating differences between African-Americans and Caucasians. We should approach our concern about appraisal ratings for African-Americans with the same analytical rigor and independence that we use when approaching any engagement. We must also be prepared to implement recommendations coming out of this review. Additional Efforts to Enhance Diversity Are Needed and Planned While we continue to have a major challenge regarding the average performance ratings of African-Americans, the percentages of African-Americans in senior management positions at GAO have increased in the last several years. GAO believes that the O&I monitoring reviews, direct access to top GAO management, and the other safeguards have played a significant role in these improvements. Specifically, from fiscal year 2000 to fiscal year 2007, the percentage of African-American staff in the SES/Senior Level (SL) increased from 7.1 percent to 11.6 percent, and at the Band III level the percentages increased from 6.7 percent to 10.8 percent. Furthermore, the percentages of African-Americans in senior management positions at GAO compare favorably to the governmentwide percentages. While the percentage of African-Americans at the SES/SL level at GAO was lower than the governmentwide percentage in 2000, by September 2006, the GAO percentage had increased and exceeded the governmentwide percentage. At the Band III/GS-15 level, the percentage of African-American staff at GAO exceeded the governmentwide percentage in 2000 as well as in 2006. Nonetheless, as an agency that leads by example, additional steps should be taken.