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OPM, Commerce to hold DEIA roundtable on equitable hiring

Almost seven months to the day after President Joe Biden signed an executive order to promote and improve diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) within the federal workforce, the Office of Personnel Management and Commerce Department will be digging into the practicalities of how to accomplish those goals.

OPM Director Kiran Ahuja, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves, and Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) will be...

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Almost seven months to the day after President Joe Biden signed an executive order to promote and improve diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) within the federal workforce, the Office of Personnel Management and Commerce Department will be digging into the practicalities of how to accomplish those goals.

OPM Director Kiran Ahuja, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves, and Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) will be discussing ways to make the federal hiring and recruitment processes more equitable with members of advocacy groups, academia and faith-based organizations.

“Finding the best and brightest minds to join our team starts by engaging with early-career professionals from all backgrounds and walks of life,” Ahuja said in a release. “Our conversation on Thursday is a chance for me to tell rising leaders that if they are interested in public service, then we want them on our team.”

The roundtable will take place at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 27 on Zoom, and is open to anyone who would like to join.

Agencies are expected to finalize their strategic plans for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility by March 23.

Specifically, the EO requires agencies to identify barriers to recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting individuals from underserved populations, as well as any obstacles they might face with professional development, pay and compensation, or training and reasonable accommodations.

OPM recently issued a memo providing guidance for agencies on how to create a new chief diversity officer position, and is in the process of standing up a Chief Diversity Officer Council. OPM has said it’s seen an appetite from agencies for this kind of advice, as well as tools and resources to implement the executive order.

Agencies have spent much of the intervening time since last year’s EO evaluating the current states of their diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility efforts, and diverting more resources and personnel to DEIA initiatives. This will allow them to understand and prioritize blind spots in their hiring and recruitment processes, which OPM has been assisting with.

For example, Dexter Brooks, the associate director of the Office of Federal Operations at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said Tuesday during a federal cyber workforce webinar hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that women and people of color participate in IT leadership positions at a lower rate than in other leadership positions in the total government.

Women also occupy a smaller percentage of federal IT jobs than they do in the total federal workforce. Women make up about 45% of the federal workforce, but represent less than 30% of the IT workforce.

“When we do that comparative analysis between IT-cyber and the rest of the federal government, it’s one of the least diverse segments of our population,” Brooks said.

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