State Department:

Minorities and Women Are Underrepresented in the Foreign Service

NSIAD-89-146: Published: Jun 26, 1989. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 1989.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Foreign Service's merit personnel system, focusing on recruitment, appointment, assignment, and promotion of minorities and women.

GAO found that: (1) minorities and women were underrepresented in the Foreign Service work force when matched against comparable civilian labor force statistics; (2) the Department of State increased minority representation from 7 percent in 1981 to 11 percent in 1987, but the percentage of white women has remained essentially unchanged at about 24 percent; (3) State has nearly eliminated entry-level underrepresentation for Foreign Service officers, but underrepresentation continues to exist in mid- and senior-level and specialist positions; (4) State has not had an effective affirmative action plan for overcoming underrepresentation problems; and (5) State has not adequately reviewed some aspects of its personnel processes for possible barriers to the hiring of minorities and the advancement of minorities and white women.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish numerical goals for hiring and advancement by race, ethnic origin, and gender category.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) approved State's 1991 affirmative action plan for the first time in many years. EEOC guidance is less specific on numerical goals.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should compile information needed, such as the race, ethnic origin, and gender of applicants for Foreign Service specialist positions, to monitor the implementation and progress of affirmative action efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO plans to cease tracking this recommendation because the Department has: (1) approved an affirmative action plan; (2) changed the thrust of its EEO regulations and program; and (3) established a personnel task force to study the Foreign Service system. Further, any other action will be long-term in nature due to inaccurate personnel system data.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should analyze personnel processes for artificial barriers and eliminate any barriers found. Such analyses should include determinations of: (1) whether the Foreign Service written examination is a valid predictor of success in light of current Foreign Service job requirements; (2) why minorities and women are eliminated at a higher rate than white men by the final review panel process; (3) why women and minorities are disparately assigned to certain work areas; and (4) whether artificial barriers hinder the promotion of minorities and white women in the Foreign Service specialist ranks and the advancement of minorities in the Senior Foreign Service.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO plans to cease tracking this recommendation because the Department: (1) has redesigned the Foreign Service Examination to eliminate many artificial barriers; (2) no longer uses different cut scores for minorities and women; and (3) has been congressionally mandated to study its personnel system and address hiring and promotion practices.

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