On January 25, DipNote posted a new piece by Deputy Secretary Brian McKeon on Modernizing Our Workforce and Winning the Competition for Talent. He talked about recruiting the next generation, focusing on retention and building critical skills for the State Department. Excerpt below:
Recruiting the Next Generation
- Our Recruitment Division conducted more than 3,000 recruiting activities, including over 900 events specifically targeting DEIA prospects. These DEIA-focused recruiting events engaged over 15,000 individual prospects.
- We established a 500-person Volunteer Recruiter Corps with representation from all affinity groups, which participated in more than 150 events. These groups mirror the makeup of our workforce and help strengthen and support its diversity.
- We streamlined the security clearance review process, reducing the average time it takes to finalize a clearance for new and transferring employees.
- Looking ahead, we will continue to urge Congress to authorize and fund paid internships.
A Focus on Retention
- We are focusing on creating and sustaining workplace flexibilities, to support our people and their families, modernize our performance management system, and promote professional development and career mobility for all our employees. In the last year, we have:
- Expanded remote work and telework eligibility. The Department needs to keep pace with the private sector in enabling greater flexibility, and we are committed to enhancing and institutionalizing many of the changes we have implemented in response to the pandemic.
- Expanded student loan repayment eligibility criteria.
- Established the first Veterans Services Coordinator position, to better support our more than 5,000 veterans at the Department.
- Created a Retention Team. In addition to reviewing the data and talking with the workforce to understand why people stay and why they leave, the Retention Team will develop the first Department-wide retention strategy.
- These steps are important and are intended to support positive change across the Department. But we are not finished. In early 2022, in addition to announcing performance management reforms, we expect to roll out new professional development opportunities as well as long overdue initiatives aimed at helping our Civil Service employees build rewarding careers.
Building Critical Skills
- As we reorient U.S. foreign policy to focus on 21st-century challenges that most directly affect Americans’ lives, we need to build our capacity and expertise in areas critical to our national security. To that end, we have:
- Established a Talent Sourcing Unit to more effectively identify, reach, and target individuals for recruitment, especially in fields requiring specialized skills.
- Conducted our first Department-only career fair, focused on STEM-and engaging diverse candidates.
- Established new Foreign Service climate diplomacy positions in all geographic regions and key overseas missions and embassies.
- Eliminated degree requirements for Foreign Service IT specialists and hired for several Civil Service data scientist positions.
It is shocking to see that this new modernization plan does not even mention family members anywhere. Take a look at the following numbers:
Out of 11,840 total adult family members overseas, 75% (8,838) are female and 25% (3,002) are male.
Only 40% (4,761) adult family members are employed, while 60% (7,079) are not employed. Of the 40% employed, only 24% or 2,900 worked for Uncle Sam inside our embassies and consulates while 16% (1,861) worked outside the US missions performing telework, running home businesses, or working in the education field.
According to BLS, the percentage of dual-income households in the United States was fairly stable between 1998 and 2017, ranging from 52 to 58 percent.
That’s not the case for FS households overseas.
60% of FS adult family members overseas are unemployed. While unemployed, a good number are most likely not contributing to a retirement system. Sporadic and employment gaps while overseas could translate into a retirement wage gap; the same gap that helps push up the poverty rate for older women in this country.
We think that’s an important point to note since 75% of FS spouses overseas are female.
Something else to note when looking at these numbers. In 2020, the average life expectancy of women at birth in the US was 80.5 years; 75.1 years for men.
So on average, female FS spouses with chequered careers and with less retirement security than their regularly employed spouses are expected to live five years longer than their male spouses. According to WISER, the average annual Social Security benefit received by women age 65 and older is approximately $14,000, which is unlikely to cover all retirement expenses.
Would the female spouses in a modern State Department continue to give 20-30 years of their lives to life overseas as accompanying partners, only able to work now and then, and putting their financial future in their old age in great peril? How many employee-spouses would opt to leave mid-careers to give their accompanying spouses opportunities to pursue their own careers and build financial independence?