WASHINGTON – Thousands of State Department employees have reported experiencing workplace discrimination in a recent internal survey.
About 44% of foreign service officers and civil servants responding to the survey said they’d been discriminated against in the workplace, while another 27% said they had experienced harassment, including sexual harassment, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Approximately 8,600 department personnel participated in the study – about one-third of the total workforce, according to the report.
The results were reported 23 days after the department released the “essential components” of its five-year Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility strategic plan meant to “ensure we have the best team representing the American people abroad.”
The plan called for the State Department to set recruitment and retention goals for a “diverse workforce,” as well as “establish concrete measures to promote greater inclusivity for women, employees with disabilities, LGBTQI+ employees, and religious, racial and ethnic minorities.”
The initiative was the result of an executive order June 25, 2021, that called on federal agencies to establish procedures to enhance diversity and inclusion.
“This order establishes that it is the policy of my Administration to cultivate a workforce that draws from the full diversity of the nation … and establishes additional procedures to advance these priorities across the federal workforce,” President Biden said at the time.
But the State Department survey results indicate that more than a year later, the problems remain – and less than half of low- and midlevel personnel indicated they believe their leadership has strong commitment to change, according to the Journal.
Diversity at the State Department have been a “longstanding” issue, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released July 22 of this year that called on the agency to “improve workplace diversity.”
A 2020 GAO report found racial minorities were underrepresented in the department, “particularly in the senior ranks.”
“Racial or ethnic minorities in State’s Civil Service were 4% to 29% less likely to be promoted than their white coworkers with similar education, occupation or years of federal service,” the document said.
This year’s report lauded the department for creating the strategic plan and appointing a chief diversity and inclusion officer but criticized it for failing to ensure accountability among leadership.
“Around 70 percent of the organizations GAO surveyed indicated that State does not hold managers and supervisors accountable for their progress toward achieving diversity and inclusion goals,” the report said. “Without ways to measure progress and enhance accountability, State may not achieve its goal of fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace.”
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.