An American Diplomatic Service That Looks Like America, But How?

Posted: 12:53 am EDT
Updated: 3:54 pm PDT
Updated: 5/24/15 11:58 am PDT
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Ambassador Tom Pickering, a seven-time ambassador and former Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P), and   Ambassador Edward J Perkins, a four-time ambassador and former Director General of the Foreign Service just did an op-ed for WaPo about the American Foreign Service being too white. And that while our diplomats are “more representative,” we have not made “nearly enough progress.”

That’s changing. Today, our diplomats are more representative. But we haven’t made nearly enough progress. According to the latest statistics, 82 percent of Foreign Service officers (the commissioned career officers serving in embassies and consulates abroad as well as some policy positions stateside) are white. Seven percent are Asian American, 5.4 percent are African American, and 5 percent are Latino. About 60 percent are men. In contrast, the U.S. population is more than 50 percent female, more than 17 percent Hispanic and more than 14 percent African American.

U.S. foreign policy is informed and improved by a wider range of experiences, understandings and outlooks. To represent America abroad and relate to the world beyond our borders, the nation needs diplomats whose family stories, language skills, religious traditions and cultural sensitivities help them to establish connections and avoid misunderstandings.
[…]
How can the Foreign Service draw upon the country’s total talent pool? The challenge isn’t only eliminating the last vestiges of discrimination but also actively recruiting the most talented and dedicated people from every segment of society, especially those of great ability but limited means.

Continue reading, The Foreign Service is too white. We’d know — we’re top diplomats. Warning, the comments are mighty brutal.

Last year we posted Snapshot: State Department’s Permanent Workforce Demographics but that is the total agency workforce which includes Civil Service and Foreign Service employees.  The Foreign Service demographics including the diversity stats from the annual promotion numbers continue to elude us.

The only publicly available data on diversity that we were able to locate is one done by State/HR in 2009 and published online by AFSA, which includes the FY08 Foreign Service workforce diversity statistics.

2009 DOS Diversity Stats FY2008

click for larger view | extracted from 2009 data (pdf)

 

The latests stats cited by the Pickering-Perkins op-ed says that “82 percent of Foreign Service officers (the commissioned career officers serving in embassies and consulates abroad as well as some policy positions stateside) are white. Seven percent are Asian American, 5.4 percent are African American, and 5 percent are Latino.”  The numbers they cite do not include the Foreign Service specialists (DS, HR, IT, etc).

But let’s look at those numbers against the pie chart and see what they look like.  From 2009-2015, we have total gains of 1.4% and total losses of 1.66% or an overall loss of 0.26%.  Take a look:

White:                           82.0% – 81.87% = 0.13% (+)
Asian Americans:     7.0%  –  5.73%   = 1.27% (+)
African Americans:  5.4% –  6.81%   = 1.41% (-)
Latino/Hispanic:        5.0% – 5.25%   = 0.25% (-)

Wait, we have not gone anywhere in the last five years?  It is, of course, possible that the numbers will not be as flat if this category includes the Foreign Service specialists. Maybe there is some  improvement in the diversity hiring for FS specialists.  Maybe it’ll look a lot better when we include those in the calculations.  Or maybe not. See, there’s no way to tell how well, how bad, or how flat are those numbers since they’re not available publicly.

We’re wondering if this is the real reason why the demographics and diversity stats for the American Foreign Service is not publicly available. We’d be happy to update this post if State/HR or the Office of Civil Rights would helpfully send us the most current numbers, including the diversity numbers from the promotion statistics.

Oops, here is the workforce racial breakdown from 2013 (thanks A!):

Department of State - Diversity Statistics Full-time Permanent Employees - as of 09/30/13

Extracted from Department of State – Diversity Statistics Full-time Permanent Employees – as of 09/30/13

 

A related topic, the current Director General of the Foreign Service Arnold Chacón (with  Alex Karagiannis) also penned a lengthy piece in the May issue of the Foreign Service Journal. Below is an excerpt:

[T]he Bureau of Human Resources is committed to an overarching goal: to recruit, retain and sustain a diverse workforce geared to succeed in 2025 and beyond. We are moving forward on three tracks.

First, we are partnering with AFSA to develop and implement a professional code of ethics for the Foreign Service, based on our core values of accountability, character, community, diversity, loyalty and service.
[…]
Second, we are focusing on improving operational effectiveness.
[…]
Third, we want to devote greater resources to professional development. Partnering with the Foreign Service Institute and the Management Bureau’s Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation, we are using the Culture of Leadership initiative to better align recruitment, training, bidding and assignments, and employee performance management. FSI is revamping many of its courses to concentrate on concrete, practical training and coaching, not just mentoring.

Within HR, we are advancing in three areas:

  • Recruiting and developing talented employees with diverse backgrounds (through internships and fellowships, and disability hiring), expanding our marketing strategies and underscoring our merit-based system;

  • Enhancing and integrating leadership and management skills (mandatory supervisory training, coaching for chiefs of mission and their deputies); and

  • Undertaking performance management and assignment reform (new FS employee evaluation form, overhaul of selection board operations, improved recognition and rewards, modernized assignment system, and targeted details beyond State).

If you’re looking at 2025, it would probably be helpful to see what the workforce would be like in say, 2020.

BLS projections say that every race and ethnicity is projected to grow over the 2010–2020 period. However, the share of White non-Hispanics in the total resident population is expected to decrease.

Over the next decade, the workforce will become even more racially and ethnically diverse. The share of minorities in the labor force will expand more than ever before, because immigration is the main engine of population growth and because Hispanics and Asians have high labor force participation rates. BLS projects that, by 2020, Hispanics (18.6 percent), Blacks (12.0 percent), Asians (5.7 percent), and all those belonging to the “all other groups” category (2.9 percent) will make up nearly 40 percent of the civilian labor force.

Asians: Asians accounted for 4.4 percent of the labor force in 2000 and 4.7 percent in 2010 and are projected to increase their share to 5.7 percent in 2020. The continued immigration of this group to the United States, coupled with the group’s high participation rates, contributes to its increasing share of the labor force. The Asian labor force totaled 7.2 million in 2010, and BLS projects this number to increase to 9.4 million in 2020.

Blacks: Blacks accounted for 10.9 percent of the labor force in 1990 and 11.6 percent in 2010; they are expected to increase their share to 12.0 percent in 2020. The increase in the share of Blacks in the total labor force comes mainly from higher birthrates, a steady stream of immigrants to the country, and the very high labor force participation rates of Black women.

The Hispanic labor force was 10.7 million in 1990, 16.7 million in 2000, and 22.7 million in 2010. BLS projects that the Hispanic labor force will reach 30.5 million in 2020 and the Hispanic share in the total labor force will increase considerably over the next decade. In 2000, Hispanics composed 11.7 percent of the labor force, a share that increased to 14.8 percent in 2010. BLS expects that Hispanics will make up 18.6 percent of the labor force in 2020.

And by the way, it looks like the 55-years-and-older age group is also projected to increase to 41.4 million in 2020, and their share in the labor workforce is expected to reach 25.2 percent that year.

We have heard often that “the Department wants its workforce to reflect the diversity of the country we represent to the world.” In 2020, the American workforce will be 18.6 percent Hispanic.  DGHR’s recruitment strategy will have a hard time catching up with that.  There’s nothing new or particularly innovative with internships and fellowships, and we’re not sure how much of a dent those made in the last five years. Are they going to make a difference in the next five years? In ten years?  We have 16 Diplomats-in-Residence across the country who are responsible for providing guidance and advice to students, professionals and the community about Department careers. What kind of results do they get? Do they venture to state and community colleges? 

If the State Department wants its diplomatic workforce to reflect our country’s diversity, it will need more than a handful of internships and fellowships to get there.  And if it does not get there soon, it may be forced to do so soon enough  by a changing electorate, and congressional priorities reflected by that change.

Read more about the labor force projections to 2020 from BLS here (pdf).

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