USCG Guangzhou: Gender Disparity in the Awards Nomination Process #FAST

Excerpted from State Department/OCR – FY2019 EEOC Management Directive 715 (MD-715) Part I.1 Report:
PART I, EEO Plan to Eliminate Identified Barrier, requires agencies to report specific plans of action aimed at identifying and removing barriers from their policies, procedures, or practices that limit or restrict free and open competition for groups involving race, ethnicity, and sex groups. To address barriers involving disability status, agencies must establish plans in PART J.
An employee notified S/OCR of an allegation of gender disparity in the awards nomination process for entry level officers in Guangzhou’s consular section. The complaint is that male entry-level officers were nominated for awards but not women. After checking the records, Post HR discovered that this is correct. Of the 21 individual award nominations for entry-level Consular officers, only one was for a female.
The Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) worked with Human Resources staff in Consulate General (CG) Guangzhou (hereafter referred to as “Post”) to identify possible reasons for the identified trigger. Post has 50 “entry-level officers” (ELOs). The focus of this barrier analysis is first or second tour, tenured or untenured, generalists and specialists as well as Consular Fellows/other limited non-career appointments and Consular Adjudicator-eligible family members employed in the Consular Section of the CG. This pool of employees comprise 35 male employees and 15 female employees. The trigger indicates that 17 out of 35 men (49%) received an award and that 3 out of 15 women (20%) received an award.

S/OCR asked Post whether selection panels are utilized, whether they believe managers know the procedures for nominating employees, whether employees are aware of the awards program, whether panelists receive training, among other questions.

S/OCR also acquired a breakdown of Post by gender and award recipient, grouped by supervisors. The 50 employees were spread across eight supervisors with some sections as large as 12 and some as small as two. The different sections were usually similar in male/ female proportion.

S/OCR is pleased to see that Post has a very involved awards program. Not only do awards seem to be encouraged, but Post follows up with information sessions to help guide the process.

– Communication of the Awards Process – Fall 2018

A Management Notice was sent out by Beijing HR to all consulates in Mission China to call for nominations. It included criteria of award types, completing and submitting award nominations, and tips and a presentation on how to write good awards justifications. A few days later a Management Notice was sent out by Post with post-specific information regarding deadlines. It included training slides on the Mission China Awards System, criteria these awards types, completing and submitting award nominations, and tips and a presentation on how to write good awards justifications.

Spring 2019

A Management Notice was sent out by Beijing HR to all consulates in Mission China to call for nominations. It included training resources for the new system, completing and submitting award nominations, and tips and a presentation on how to write good awards justifications. A few days later, a Management Notice was sent out by Post with post-specific information regarding deadlines. It included training resources for the new system, completing and submitting award nominations, and tips and a presentation on how to write good awards justifications.

– Communication of the Value of the Awards – Fall 2018

Two DVC training sessions were held on the new award system and the award nominations.

Spring 2019

One-hour training DVCs on MCAS and eAwards systems (30 minutes) and writing a strong nomination (30 minutes) were held. Members of the Post Award Committee, the Management Officer and the Human Resources Assistant were available to answer any questions. All panel members in Guangzhou were trained by Human Resources and the Management Officer on the different types of awards, reasons for awards, and the voting process. The awards were approved by the Award Committee in Guangzhou, and sent to the Joint Country Award Committee (JCAC) in Beijing for final approval. The JCAC consisted of panel chairs/members from Mission China.

With all this, it appears that Post has worked hard to ensure the awards process is fair and open. S/OCR has other ideas that Post may wish to employ as good management decisions but does not propose that utilization of these principles will have the direct effect of alleviating the trigger.

Require employees to document their accomplishments on a weekly or biweekly basis and send to supervisors. At the end of the year, employees and supervisors can comb through the documentation made in helping them decide who and what to nominate for awards. This would be useful also for performance reviews. S/OCR suggests this because relying on memory leaves us prone to cognitive (recency bias) and unconscious bias (halo/horns effect).

Training on awards for supervisors and non-supervisors. Assess supervisor knowledge of the awards process – knowledge in management is not always shared by line managers. Clearly articulate and communicate which behaviors and accomplishments warrant awards and which do not. A survey could serve as an assessment.

If Post decides to implement any changes to the performance management system, Post should clearly articulate to the employees why such changes are being imposed and the benefit it will bring to all. This is critical in terms of bringing more transparency to the process and eliminating any negativity or thoughts of unfairness.

S/OCR suggests Post utilize “watchful waiting” to see whether the trend continues to exist and thanks Post for thinking to act proactively in addressing an issue raised by employees at Post.