It’s not every day when the federal government recognizes a problem of diversity and swiftly moves to fix it. This is exactly what is happening with the White House’s Hispanic Council on Federal Employment, which is meeting today to discuss ways of increasing Hispanic federal employment. To be sure this is a welcome step in the right direction, but there is much work still to be done.
The Federal government faces some very real challenges in regard to the full employment of Hispanics, as they constitute just 8.1 percent of the Federal workforce (FW), while comprising 13.6 of the Civilian Labor Force. Some context: in the last year of the Bush Administration, Hispanics represented 7.8 percent (131,640) of the FW in 2007, compared to 7.6 percent (127,442) in 2006. The representation of Hispanics in the Civilian Labor Force was 13.3 percent in 2007, compared to 12.8 percent in 2006.
John Bersentes and Mark Havard recruitment experts noted in a recent report that there are several issues facing the federal government in the retention and recruitment of Hispanic federal employees. Those include: competition for top Hispanic workers from the private sector, geo-demographic barriers, lack of commitment among high level agencies, emphasis on recruiting for Spanish-speaking and bilingual jobs, lack of agency resources to take top-down actions and an overall lack of government-wide action on this issue.
While there is little the Federal Government can do about removing the geo-demographic barriers, i.e. moving Washington D.C. closer to areas of high density Hispanic areas, the Administration seems to understand that the Federal workforce needs a diverse set of talents and experiences and perspectives at every agency. The creation of the Hispanic Council on Federal Employment was created to address many of the issues brought up by Bersentes and Harvard’s report. This is a step in the right direction. The council has already recommended strong accountability measures that clearly identify barriers to Hispanic recruitment and inclusion, where they exist. They are also partnering with student programs, Veterans’ programs and Hispanic Serving Institutions to promote our Student Pathways Programs and promote the idea of a career in Federal civil service
The federal workforce employs a committed cadre of people responsible for keeping our country up and running. As our country continues to diversify in profound ways, how do we continue to grow in the federal workforce as well? The 2011 Federal Workforce report provides a decidedly mixed answer.
The representation rate of minorities in these positions rose by 3.5 percent (from 357,468 to 370,584). The Federal workforce is 17.8 percent Black, 8.1 percent Hispanic, 5.6 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 1.7 percent Native American, 0.8 percent non-Hispanic/Multi-racial, and 66.0 percent White. Minorities as a whole constituted 34.1 percent of the Federal workforce.
Men comprised 56.4 percent of all Federal permanent employees and women 43.6 percent.
At 16.7 percent of the total population of the country, Hispanic representation in the federal government is roughly half of their actual representation in the country. Is this progress? In some ways, this is an improvement, yes: Hispanics slowly but surely are making up ground in this arena.
The good news is, at the very least the White House director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) John Berry acknowledges these set backs and thankfully is committed to making the necessary changes to increase these numbers. Berry puts it like this: “OPM knows that Hispanics are underrepresented in the Federal workforce. However, with an 8.1% Hispanic representation government wide, and Hispanic new hires doubling in the Senior Executive Service to 5.4 percent, we are moving in the right direction.”
In a recent op-ed for Latino magazine, Barry takes another tack: the latest statistics show that at the end of 2011, the percentage of Hispanics in the Federal workforce rose from 8.0 to 8.1%. That’s about 4,000 more Hispanics working in the Federal government today. That is progress in the right direction, but we must do better.
As the President has said, “We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society,” and the Hispanic community is key to ensuring our nation’s continued success.
Kristian Ramos is the Policy Director of the 21st Century Border Initiative at NDN and The New Policy Institute.