Dr. Michael Schneider, RFG Fellows’ Career Adviser and director of the Maxwell School of Syracuse University’s Washington Public Diplomacy Program, offers sage advice during these difficult times for our Fellows, alumni, and others in public service.

The challenges of equal opportunity and inclusion are not new to the federal service. Yet, today’s nationwide protest against racism and for fairness calls for a fresh look at progress and challenges in all our institutions, including the United States government (USG).

In our June 8 statement the foundation reaffirmed its “.… commitment to support and promote policies, practices and education that enhance the federal government to ensure freedom and security for people of color and all Americans.” The statement goes on:

RFG will work to cultivate leaders who act responsibly and foster hope and encourage the best of institutions and citizens to live up to the principles of America and equitably address challenges for the strength of our nation and the world. RFG applauds the efforts of civil servants at all levels of government who seek to address the failures of American society to live up to its ideals, to preserve constitutional rights, and empower government institutions that make the realization of those ideals possible.

A Half-Century of Sporadic Efforts

Today’s national debate follows a half-century of periodic efforts by Congress and the Executive Branch to broaden equal opportunity, inclusion and diversity in the USG. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Executive Orders from 2000 (Hispanic Employment in the Federal Government) directed agencies and departments “…. to implement programs for recruitment and career development of Hispanic employees and established a mechanism for identifying best practices in doing so.”

Fast forward through several other legislative and Executive initiatives. In 2011 Executive Order 13583 called for the Feds to ‘endeavor to achieve a work force from all segments of society… As the Nation’s largest employer the Federal Government has a special obligation to lead by example. Attaining a diverse qualified workforce is one of the cornerstones of the merit-based civil service.”

Overall federal employment patterns paint a mixed picture

A 2017 OPM Report shows: “…diversity levels have improved little, stayed flat or, in some cases, regressed over the most recent period studied.” In FY 2017, the percentage of minorities in the permanent Federal workforce increased by 0.7 percentage points from 36.4% in FY 2016 to 37.1% in FY 2017. The comparable percentage of the Civilian Labor Force (CLF) is 37.4%.

About 15 percent of the national workforce are Hispanic Americans. Hispanics comprise just 8.6 percent of federal employees overall, while African Americans are 10.5 percent of the civilian labor force and 18.4 percent of federal employees but not in the higher GS ranks.

These are broad figures and disguise the significant variations among different federal agencies. According to the OPM report, Blacks in federal service range from about 38 percent in Education and HUD to 5.6 in Interior. Hispanics represent 22 percent in DHS down to 3.3 percent in HHS. Women comprised 64.9 percent in HHS down to 26.2 percent in DOT.

A 2019 report by OPM cites figures for FY 2017 that show little if any improvement in federal employment for Black Americans and women.

The percentages of the workforce comprised by each group for which data is collected are as follows:

  • 8.6%  Black
  • 8.9%  Hispanic
  • 5.9%  Asian
  • 0.5%  Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  • 1.6%  American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 1.6%  Non-Hispanic Multiracial
  • 62.9%  White

The overall distribution of Federal employees is 56.7% male and 43.3% female.

The report also contains a section on successful and promising practices for greater inclusion.

The Senior Executive Service Lags Behind and Sets a Poor Example

The report also discusses the Senior Executive Service, where the percentage of minorities lingered at 21.2 % in FY 2016. The gap between white men in top positions and other groups has been substantial. White people accounted for 78.8 percent of senior executives in 2015 and 2016 and were 66.4 percent of the national labor force.

Minority representation in the Senior Executive Service (SES) decreased from 21.2% in FY 2016 to 20.7% in FY 2017. The percentages of the SES comprised by each group for which data is collected are as follows:

  • 10.4%  Black,
  • 4.6%  Hispanic
  • 3.5%  Asian
  • 0.2%  Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander,
  • 1.2%  American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 0.8%  Non-Hispanic Multiracial
  • 79.2%  White

The overall distribution of the SES is 66.0% male and 34.0% female.

These statistics might be considered a baseline to compare and contrast changes in the past three years. It’s important also to examine the percentages of minority Americans in professional and leadership positions in the USG overall, in addition to the SES.

Focusing on the State Department

A recent GAO study found almost miniscule improvements in diversity and promotion patterns over the past two decades!

“The overall proportion of racial or ethnic minorities in the Department of State’s full-time, permanent, career workforce increased from 28 to 32 percent from fiscal year 2002 to fiscal year 2018. The direction of change for specific groups varied. For instance, the proportion of Hispanics increased from 5 percent to 7 percent, while the proportion of African Americans decreased from 17 to 15 percent. Also, the proportion of racial or ethnic minorities and women was lowest at management and executive levels.” Through longstanding efforts of the Rangel and Pickering Fellows Programs, the Foreign Service has changed a little more, but the Civil Service has not.

The proportion of African Americans employed at State has declined over the years, though the overall number of racial and ethnic minorities has increased slightly, the report said.

Women and minorities were promoted to management and executive ranks at a lower rate than their white and male counterparts. The report said many factors could be at play.

The Department of Defense has long been the incubator of change in American society

Since President Harry S. Truman’s decision to integrate U.S. military forces, the Department of Defense (DoD) has long served as an agent of social change. After integration — an ongoing process — concerns remain about promotion both in the ranks and among senior officials. The DoD experience has epitomized every point of conflict over discrimination in American society and our ongoing if awkward effort to open opportunity, from the debate over racism and equal opportunity of African Americans including senior leadership roles, to the issues of women in combat and command, LGBTQ+ participation and other concerns.

A Pew Research Center report shows that  “As the country has become more racially and ethnically diverse, so has the U.S. military.”  Racial and ethnic minority groups made up 40% of Defense Department active-duty military in 2015, up from 25% in 1990. (In 2015, 44% of all Americans ages 18 to 44 were racial or ethnic minorities, according to the Pew report.)

In the same year, Black Americans made up 17% of the DoD active-duty military – somewhat higher than their share of the U.S. population ages 18 to 44 (13%). Blacks have consistently been represented in greater shares among enlisted personnel (19% in 2015) than among the commissioned officers (9%). The share of the active-duty force that is Hispanic has risen rapidly in recent decades. In 2015, 12% of all active-duty personnel were Hispanic, three times the share in 1980.”

The challenge in the military as for State and other federal departments is that Black Americans notably are under-represented at senior levels.

One Alum’s Experience

RFG Alumna Ana Monzon has long taken the issues to heart and now at USDA has been asked to help make a difference in that sprawling federal agency.

Ana writes her appreciation of being the first Hispanic woman to receive the Robertson Fellowship at the Maxwell School.

“  …..I want to express my gratitude for the message from the RFG Board of Directors and my hopes that in your vow to “support and promote policies, practices and education that enhance the federal government to ensure freedom and security for people of color,” you move forward with tangible and intentional decisions to achieve this goal. “

As a civil service  employee of the Foreign Agriculture Service, Ana has been asked to be part of a discussion group in USDA  to help review and revise current practices and policies “…. I feel that these tough times, while bringing about much hardship to the Black community, also present an opportune moment, from the personal to the institutional, to bring about much-needed change – and this type of democratic mobilization and possibility is what makes me most proud to be an American.”

Our sentiments as well: pride in Ana’s accomplishment and commitment and hopes that we all can contribute to federal agencies and our own communities.

What can the RFG community do?

We all can dedicate a measure of our time and energy to helping. Change is never neat or simple; it comes about through compelling public conflicts over injustices, but also results from countless unseen efforts. (As a lifetime SEA member, I’ll volunteer to help mentor minorities and women for opportunities to move up.)

To change a system, a “whole of society” approach is needed. It must be strategic, not episodic.

Greater diversity and inclusion in the federal service require:

  • An ongoing talent search
  • Incentives that help the Feds compete with the private and non-profit sectors
  • Mentoring at all levels of government service
  • Educational links with American colleges and universities, including the HBCUs
  • Educational efforts from pre-K upward
  • Leadership at every level and in every sector of the federal system
  • Broader societal efforts to foster public trust in inclusive government
  • And at the other extreme, individual actions – mentoring, care and compassion.

It might be a cliché, but a federal service that looks like America is valid and important, because it draws on a key national strength, our diversity.

How can each of us make a difference? Your shared experiences and ideas for this would be greatly appreciated.

The Alumni Council is excited to announce the launching of a Financial Literacy Series this fall! Navigating the unique world of the Federal workforce – from the hiring process and the GS pay scale to the leave policies, benefits packages, and retirement plans – all of the rules and regulations can be daunting. This workshop series will provide fellows and alumni the necessary information and tools to manage their finances and plan for the future.

The first event, Savvy Secrets to Negotiating Federal Salaries, is scheduled for September 15, 2020. During this session, Lily Whiteman—a leading authority on federal careers—will reveal strategies that may help graduating students significantly boost their salary offers for a first federal job and help current federal employees land valuable promotions. Coverage will include: the basics of federal pay scales; when to negotiate salary during the hiring process; how to negotiate persuasively and confidently; benefits that are negotiable in addition to salary; tips for accelerating your rise up the career ladder; and much more!

The second workshop of the series, Financial Planning (Federal Benefits and Retirement), will follow in October. This session will survey some lesser-known employee benefits (Federal leave policies and buying back time, flexible spending accounts and open season, group life insurance, term care insurance, survivor benefits, and work/life enrichment programs). It will also delve into the Federal Employee Retirement System and explain the differences in Thrift Savings Plans, 401Ks, IRAs, and Social Security.

The series will conclude in November with the final workshop, Investing 101, which will cover the fundamentals of investing – from the different types of investments, to money management and investment strategies. All of the workshops will be done through Zoom which will allow fellows and alumni located outside of DC to participate live with instructors.

Each session will be recorded and made available on the Resources page (must be logged in to access) of the RFG website.

Check our Events page for more details and registration links closer to the event.

A diverse group of 77 students from 26 colleges and universities joined PLEN’s first virtual seminar on Women in Global Policy in May, the largest group of participants in PLEN seminar history. The students hailed from 22 states and four countries, including Ghana and Pakistan. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the change to an online format, it allowed a much larger cohort to gain the skills, knowledge, and networks that will help prepare them for careers in global public policy.

The RFG-supported program offered training on how public leadership and global policy intersect through a series of workshops, panel discussions, and virtual site visits to 10 organizations and companies, including the German Embassy, Foreign Policy 4 America, and the Brookings Institution. By the end of the five-day seminar, students had benefited from eight skill-based workshops and events, covering topics including salary negotiation, resume review, and networking. And they engaged in nine panel discussions, connecting virtually with more than 50 women leaders who shared information on career opportunities at the intersection of public policy and global issues.

A new feature of the seminar was the first-ever virtual simulation of international negotiation, guided by Lauren Fischer, education program specialist in the State Department’s National Museum of American Democracy. Other highlights included a keynote address by Heather Higginbottom, executive director of JPMorgan Chase’s Policy Center; remarks by Ambassador Jean Manes; and a storytelling workshop.

Three members of congress also joined the online program to share experience and encourage women to pursue careers in policy, including Sharice Davids (KS-3), Abigail Spanberger (VA-7), and Elise Stefanik (NY-21).

One student stated, “I was nervous about having an online seminar for five days. However, PLEN has exceeded all of my expectations. It is one of the most organized programs I have ever attended, let alone online. I cannot stress enough how helpful and enlightening the programs, breakout sessions, workshops, and guest speakers have been to my future career and interests.

Check out the PLEN website for more information on the Women in Global Policy seminar and other training programs.

Andrew Reighart (UMD SPP, ‘15) is an environmental policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a co-chair of Equality EPA, the agency’s networking group for LGBTQ+ staff members.

For EPA’s National Pride Month observance Andrew organized a program entitled LGBTQ+ Voices of Pride, which featured five EPA staff representing a range of sexualities, gender identities, experiences, and ancestries. They shared stories about developing and embracing identity with an emphasis on intersectionality, as well as struggles for equality, and some of their most indelible moments of pride. The event celebrated the complexity and diversity of LGBTQ+ staff at EPA and aimed to encourage a sense of shared humanity to inspire further conversations leading to a deeper understanding and embrace of the LGBTQ+ community.

Read the EPA profile of Andrew Reighart

Alexandra Hackbarth (Maxwell, ‘15), Director for Climate and Energy Security at the American Security Project, authored a report on the difficult quandary China’s leadership faces: how best to balance economic growth and reductions in carbon emissions. In the wake of coronavirus, Hackbarth writes, this balance becomes even more important and difficult. Decisions made now in Beijing may well determine whether it is possible to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, as the 2015 Paris Agreement prescribes.

Read the report
Listen to a podcast about the report

On June 17, Alex also moderated a public event on the balance China must find between economic growth and reduced carbon emissions. Joining her were Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, USN (Ret.) and Taiya Smith, Director of the China Program at the Climate Leadership Council.

Watch the recording
Read the event recap

Read Alexandra’s ASP bio

RFG is supporting the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) in its efforts to ensure that the emerging generation of public servants has a global mindset and an ability to address diversity, equity and inclusion in the practice of international affairs. As one of the foundation’s new institutional partners, a $25,000 grant will fund two projects:

  • The University Leadership Council for Diversity and Inclusion in International Affairs Education, which convenes deans and program directors of international affairs and public policy schools to address strategies to enhance DEI.
  • A nascent working group organized with members of the American Political Science Association (APSA) on Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in International Affairs Education and similar work with members of the International Studies Association (ISA) to connect and assist faculty interested in advancing the focus on diversity and inclusion issues at schools nationwide.

Attention to diversity, equity and inclusion are key to advancing peace and prosperity worldwide. Extensive experience, in‐depth research, and extended discussions underline that the ability to navigate diverse spaces and ideas, and to foster inclusion are core professional skills, particularly in the global arena. World‐class schools of international affairs should help students contemplate and navigate the heterogeneity of communities and countries and provide the next generation of public servants with this cultural competency.

This award will enhance graduate international relations education and training of future federal public service leaders by supporting the GIWPS initiatives to strengthen attention to diversity, equity and inclusion in international affairs graduate education. Strategies include creating fora for sharing work and experiences; identifying best practices and recommendations to disseminate; and consolidating resources to enable progress.

Attention to diversity and inclusion in foreign policy will advance quickly and effectively with more and better graduate school curricula and courses that enable students to understand the centrality of the topic to success in international affairs, and provide them with practical tools to advance the agenda in their careers. By boosting graduate international affairs curricula with adequate attention to these topics students will complete their studies better prepared to effectively confront today’s foreign policy challenges.

The projects are being led by GIWPS Senior Fellow Carla Koppell. For more information on these initiatives please contact Carla.

To see a list of all of our institutional partners, visit our Institutional Partners page or follow all of our academic and institutional partners on our Twitter Partners list.

The Robertson Foundation for Government (RFG) was created with a mission to support the United States government to defend and extend freedom throughout the world. The foundation condemns all acts and systemic policies and practices that oppress, create barriers to equal opportunity, and foster disparities. 

Democracy and freedom cannot be accomplished and flourish when the human rights and civil liberties of any individual or group of people are not upheld, respected and honored. RFG supports peaceful protests in the furtherance of racial justice. 

Racism and discrimination are unacceptable in any place and in any form in a nation that espouses the right to life and liberty for all. The disproportionate death toll and negative economic impacts among communities of color from the coronavirus pandemic, and the killing of unarmed Black citizens and ongoing violations of the rights of people of color illuminate the historic and pervasive reach of prejudice and racism in the United States. RFG acknowledges the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and those before them whose lives have ended unjustly. 

The foundation reaffirms its commitment to support and promote policies, practices and education that enhance the federal government to ensure freedom and security for people of color and all Americans. RFG will work to cultivate leaders who act responsibly and foster hope and encourage the best of institutions and citizens to live up to the principles of America and equitably address challenges for the strength of our nation and the world. RFG applauds the efforts of civil servants at all levels of government who seek to address the failures of American society to live up to its ideals, to preserve constitutional rights, and empower government institutions that make the realization of those ideals possible.

Diversity, justice and inclusion are integral to true democracy and a safe and civil society. RFG will explore and engage in expanded action to further these dimensions vital to achieve government of, by and for the people – all people.

Robertson Foundation for Government Board of Directors

This summer, the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, an RFG partner organization, has teamed up with Women In International Security to host monthly virtual career development events. Throughout these events, participants can build upon important career development skills and connect with professionals in international affairs. So find a quiet corner, grab your laptop and join us for our upcoming programs. Programs are free for WFPG and WIIS members. RFG Fellows and alumni can also attend for free with a code from Alex Ghara.

May 20th | Virtual Networking and Video Interviews – How Has the Job Hunt Changed?
World Resources Institute Senior Human Resources Manager Clarissa Balatan, Career Coach Alyssa Best, and Deloitte Analyst Nadia Crevecoeur joined WFPG Executive Director Kim Kahnhauser Freeman for a conversation on how to network and job hunt remotely. The panelists shared best practices for interviews, informational interviews, reaching out through social media, and building and maintaining your network. Read more
June 16th Job-Search Toolkit: Interviews, Salary Negotiation, and Getting Your Foot in the Door
Either virtually or in person, how can you shine in your next interview? Learn how to prep, put your best foot forward, and negotiate your compensation for your next international affairs job. Learn how to prep, put your best foot forward, and negotiate your compensation for your next international affairs job. Speakers will be announced shortly.
July 16th | Federal Service: Navigating Applications and Landing your First Job
Cosponsored with the Robertson Foundation for Government
What does a federal international affairs career look like and what is the application process like? Learn about different pathways to government service, how to decipher usajob.gov, and what opportunities exist both in Washington and overseas in a variety of government agencies. Speakers will be announced shortly.
August 10th | Transitions and Taking a Leap: Switching Sectors and Leveraging your Contacts
Program for Mid-Career Professionals
Thinking about switching sectors or going out on your own? What should you consider before you jump? How do you leverage your connections and network to find your next position? Join us for a conversation on mid-career transitions and advancing your career in international affairs. Speakers will be announced shortly.

On Wednesday, June 10, The Partnership will announce the five Service to America Medals finalists still in the running for the 2020 People’s Choice award. Don’t miss your chance to vote—take time now to learn about the remaining 12 finalists and choose your favorites. Here’s how:

  1. Read the finalists’ profiles to learn about their accomplishments.
  2. Vote for your top choices using the poll.
  3. Use social media to spread the word about your favorite finalists with the promotional graphics and #Sammies2020.

The top five will be announced June 10. You may submit your votes once every 24 hours, and the winner will be announced this summer.

Vote now