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Testimony before Congressional Subcommittees: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 


For Release on Delivery Expected at 10:00 a.m. EST: 

Tuesday, May 22, 2007: 

Human Capital: 

Efforts to Enhance Diversity and Ensure a Fair and Inclusive Workplace 
at GAO: 

Statement of Ronald A. Stroman, Managing Director: 
Office of Opportunity and Inclusiveness: 


Chairman Davis, Chairman Akaka, and Members of the Subcommittees: 

Good Morning. I am Ron Stroman, the Managing Director of the Office of 
Opportunity and Inclusiveness at the United States Government 
Accountability Office (GAO). I am pleased to be here today to discuss 
some of the steps we have taken to help enhance diversity and create a 
fair and inclusive workplace at GAO. In these efforts, we are all 
affected by the world we live in. Discrimination and intolerance are an 
unfortunate and continuing reality in our country. Overcoming these 
barriers is more than a professional responsibility for me. I have 
stood outside the Rayburn House Office building wearing a suit and a 
tie during the middle of the day trying to hail a cab only to have that 
cab driver pass me by in order to pick up a white person standing less 
than five feet behind where I stood. My son has been stopped by the 
police repeatedly while driving because he was driving through a 
community that the police didn't think he belonged in. Race, gender, 
ethnicity, disability, age, and sexual orientation do matter. 

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 

Role of the Office of Opportunity and Inclusiveness: 

The Comptroller General recognized that he needed to shift the emphasis 
of the then Office of Civil Rights from a reactive, complaint 
processing focus to a more proactive, integrated approach. He wanted to 
create a work environment where differences are valued and all 
employees are offered the opportunity to reach their full potential and 
maximize their contributions to the agency's mission. 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 by having the office report 
directly to him. Also, in 2001, I was selected as the first Managing 
Director of the Office of Opportunity and Inclusiveness. 

The Office of Opportunity and Inclusiveness (O&I) is the principal 
adviser to the Comptroller General on diversity and equal opportunity 
matters. The office manages GAO's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) 
program, including informal precomplaint counseling, and GAO's formal 
discrimination complaint process. We also operate the agency's early 
resolution and mediation program by helping managers and employees 
resolve workplace disputes and EEO concerns without resorting to the 
formal process. In addition, O&I monitors the implementation of GAO's 
disability policy and oversees the management of GAO's interpreting 
service for our deaf and hard-of-hearing employees. But effective 
efforts to create a diverse, fair, and inclusive work place require 
much more. 

In furtherance of a more proactive approach, O&I monitors, evaluates, 
and recommends changes to GAO's major human capital policies and 
processes including those related to recruiting, hiring, performance 
management, promotion, awards, and training. These reviews are 
generally conducted before final decisions are made in an effort to 
provide reasonable assurance that GAO's human capital processes and 
practices promote fairness and support a diverse workforce. 

Throughout the year, O&I actively promotes diversity throughout GAO. 
For example, last year we met with the summer interns to discuss their 
experiences and to provide guidance on steps that interns can take to 
enhance their chances for successful conversion to permanent employment 
at GAO. We also took steps to increase retention of our entry-level 
staff by counseling our Professional Development Program advisers on 
the importance of consistent and appropriate training opportunities and 
job assignments that afford all staff the opportunity to demonstrate 
all of GAO's competencies. I also made several presentations that 
reinforced the agency's strategic commitment to diversity, including a 
panel discussion on diversity in the workforce, a presentation to new 
Band II analysts on the importance of promoting an environment that is 
fair and unbiased and that values opportunity and inclusiveness for all 
staff, and a presentation to Senior Executive Service (SES) managers on 
leading practices for maintaining diversity, focusing on top leadership 
commitment and ways that managers can communicate that commitment and 
hold staff accountable for results. 

This proactive and integrated approach to promoting inclusiveness and 
addressing diversity issues differs from my experience as Director of 
the Office of Civil Rights at a major executive branch agency. As 
Director of that office, a position I held immediately before coming to 
GAO, I had little direct authority to affect human capital decisions 
before they were implemented, even though those decisions could 
adversely affect protected groups within the agency. For the most part, 
my role was to focus on the required barrier analysis and planning 
process. The problem with this approach is that agencies generally make 
just enough of an effort to meet the minimal requirements of the plan 
developed by this process. In addition to these plans, diversity 
principles should be built into every major human capital initiative, 
along with effective monitoring and oversight functions. 

Efforts to Attract a Diverse Pool of Top Candidates: 

The war for talent, especially given increasing competition with the 
private sector, has made it more competitive for GAO and other federal 
agencies to attract and retain top talent. Graduates of color from our 
nation's top colleges and universities have an ever increasing array of 
career options. In response to this challenge, GAO has taken a variety 
of steps to attract a diverse pool of top candidates. We have 
identified a group of colleges and universities that have demonstrated 
overall superior academic quality, and either have a particular program 
or a high concentration of minority students. They include several 
Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving 
institutions, and institutions with a significant portion of Asian- 
American students. In addition, GAO has established partnerships with 
professional organizations and associations with members from groups 
that traditionally have been underrepresented in the federal workforce, 
such as the American Association of Hispanic CPAs, the National 
Association of Black Accountants, the Federal Asian Pacific American 
Council, the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and 
Accounting, and the American Association of Women Accountants. GAO's 
recruiting materials reflect the diversity of our workforce, and we 
annually train our campus recruiters on the best practices for 
identifying a broad spectrum of diverse candidates. 

GAO's student intern program serves as a critically important pipeline 
for attracting high-quality candidates to GAO. In order to maximize the 
diversity of our summer interns, O&I reviews all preliminary student 
intern offers to ensure that the intern hiring is consistent with the 
agency's strategic commitment to maintaining a diverse workforce. O&I 
also meets with a significant percentage of our interns in order to get 
their perspectives on the fairness of GAO's work environment. Moreover, 
our office recently analyzed the operation of the summer intern program 
and the conversion process and identified areas for improvement. GAO is 
implementing changes to address these areas, including taking steps to 
better ensure consistency in the interns' experiences and to improve 
the processes for evaluating their performance and making decisions 
about permanent job offers. 

Processes and Safeguards Established to Help Ensure Accountability and 
Promote Transparency of GAO's Performance Management Systems: 

Competency-based performance management systems are extremely complex. 
It is important to implement safeguards to monitor implementation of 
such systems. As a way to ensure accountability and promote 
transparency, the Comptroller General made an unprecedented decision to 
disseminate performance rating and promotion data. Over some 
objections, the Comptroller General agreed to place appraisal and 
promotion data by race, gender, age, disability, veteran status, 
location, and pay band on the GAO intranet and made this information 
available to all GAO staff. This approach allows all managers and staff 
to monitor the implementation of our competency-based performance 
management systems and serves as an important safeguard in relation to 
the processes. As far as I am aware, no other federal agency has ever 
done this, nor am I aware of any major corporation in America that has 
taken such an action. The Comptroller General rejected the argument 
that an increased litigation risk should drive the agency away from 
disseminating this information. Instead he stood by his position that 
the principles of accountability and transparency dictated that we 
should make this data available to all GAO employees. 

In addition to making this data available to all GAO staff, O&I and the 
Human Capital Office conduct separate and independent reviews of each 
performance appraisal and promotion cycle before ratings and promotions 
are final. In conducting its review of performance appraisals, O&I uses 
a two-part approach; we review statistical data on performance ratings 
by demographic group within each unit, and where appropriate, we 
conduct assessments of individual ratings. In conducting the individual 
assessments we (a) examine each individual rating within the specific 
protected group; (b) review the adequacy of any written justification; 
(c) determine whether GAO's guidance on applying the standards for each 
of the performance competencies has been consistently followed, to the 
extent possible; and (d) compare the rating with the self-assessment to 
identify the extent to which there are differences. I meet with team 
managing directors to resolve any concerns we have after our review. In 
some instances ratings are changed, and in other cases we obtain 
additional information that addresses our concerns. 

Our promotion process review entails analyzing all recommended best- 
qualified (BQ) lists. We review each applicant's performance ratings 
for the last three years. In addition, we also review each applicant's 
supervisory experience. I discuss concerns about an applicant's 
placement with the relevant panel chair. I then meet with the Chief 
Operating Officer and the Chief Administrative Officer to discuss any 
continuing concerns. A similar process is used regarding managing 
director's selection decisions. 

In addition to these independent reviews, GAO provides employees with 
several avenues to raise specific concerns regarding their individual 
performance ratings. The agency has an administrative grievance process 
that permits employees to receive expedited reviews of performance 
appraisal matters. Moreover, employees have access to early resolution 
efforts and a formal complaint process with O&I and at the Personnel 
Appeals Board. 

Additional Efforts to Enhance Diversity Are Needed and Planned: 

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 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. I agree with this decision. 
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. 

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. I believe 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. The following table shows the change in representation of 
African-American staff at the SES/SL and Band III levels for each year. 

Table 1: Percentages of GAO's SES/SL and Band III Staff That Are 
African-Americans, Fiscal Years 2000 to 2007. 

Fiscal years: 2000; 
Percentage of SES/SL level staff that are African- American: 7.1; 
Percentage of Band III level staff that are African- American: 6.7. 

Fiscal years: 2001; 
Percentage of SES/SL level staff that are African- American: 7.0; 
Percentage of Band III level staff that are African- American: 7.3. 

Fiscal years: 2002; 
Percentage of SES/SL level staff that are African- American: 8.3; 
Percentage of Band III level staff that are African- American: 8.1. 

Fiscal years: 2003; 
Percentage of SES/SL level staff that are African- American: 9.0; 
Percentage of Band III level staff that are African- American: 8.9. 

Fiscal years: 2004; 
Percentage of SES/SL level staff that are African- American: 9.1; 
Percentage of Band III level staff that are African- American: 9.1. 

Fiscal years: 2005; 
Percentage of SES/SL level staff that are African- American: 9.0; 
Percentage of Band III level staff that are African- American: 10.5. 

Fiscal years: 2006; 
Percentage of SES/SL level staff that are African- American: 11.0; 
Percentage of Band III level staff that are African- American: 10.9. 

Fiscal years: 2007; 
Percentage of SES/SL level staff that are African- American: 11.6; 
Percentage of Band III level staff that are African- American: 10.8. 

Source: GAO. 

Note: Data reflect the percentages at the start of the fiscal year. 

[End of table] 

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. Table 2 lists the GAO and governmentwide percentages. 

Table 2: African-Americans as a Percentage of SES/SL and Band III/GS-15 
Staff, GAO and Governmentwide: 

October 1, 2000; 
Percentage of African-American staff at the SES/SL level: GAO: 7.0; 
Percentage of African-American staff at the SES/SL level: 
Governmentwide: 8.4; 
Percentage of African-American staff at the Band III/GS-15 level: GAO: 
Percentage of African- American staff at the Band III/GS-15 level: 
Governmentwide: 6.2. 

September 2006[A]; 
Percentage of African-American staff at the SES/SL level: GAO: 11.6; 
Percentage of African-American staff at the SES/SL level: 
Governmentwide: 8.6; 
Percentage of African-American staff at the Band III/GS-15 level: GAO: 
Percentage of African- American staff at the Band III/GS-15 level: 
Governmentwide: 7.3. 

Source: GAO and GAO's analysis of the Office of Personnel Management 

[A] The GAO percentages are as of October 2006. 

[End of table] 

Nonetheless, as an agency that leads by example, additional steps 
should be taken. We must continue to improve our expectation-setting 
and feedback process so that it is more timely and specific. We need 
additional individualized training for designated staff, and we need to 
provide training for all supervisors on having candid conversations 
about performance. We also need to improve transparency in assigning 
supervisory roles, ensure that all staff have similar opportunities to 
perform key competencies, and hold managers accountable for results. 
Finally, we will implement an agencywide mentoring program this summer. 
We expect that this program will help all participants enhance job 
performance and career development opportunities. Overall, GAO is 
making progress toward improving its processes and implementing various 
program changes that will help address important issues. 


I believe there are two compelling diversity challenges confronting GAO 
and the federal government. First, is the continuing challenge of 
implementing sufficiently specific merit-based policies, safeguards, 
and training in order to minimize the ability of individual biases to 
adversely affect the outcome of those policies. Second, is the 
challenge of having managers that can communicate with diverse groups 
of staff, respecting their differences and effectively using their 
creativity to develop a more dynamic and productive work environment. 

For many people, the workplace is the most diverse place they encounter 
during the course of their day. We owe it to our employees and to the 
future of our country to improve our understanding of our differences, 
and to work toward a fairer and more inclusive workplace. 

Chairman Akaka, Chairman Davis, and members of the subcommittees, this 
concludes my prepared statement. At this time I would be pleased to 
answer any questions that you or other members of the subcommittees may 

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