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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.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of State The Secretary of State should establish numerical goals for hiring and advancement by race, ethnic origin, and gender category.
Closed – Implemented
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.
Department of State 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.
Closed – Implemented
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.
Department of State 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.
Closed – Implemented
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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