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House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on SES Diversity

On November 13, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia held a hearing on the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the senior executive service (SES) of legislative branch agencies. The hearing coincided with the subcommittee’s release of a report assessing the gender and racial diversity of six legislative branch agencies: the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Library of Congress (LOC), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Government Printing Office (GPO), the Capitol Police, and the Architect of the Capitol. The report’s findings were based on information provided to the subcommittee by the various agencies.

Chair Danny Davis (D-IL) said, “Democratic legislatures are traditionally supposed to represent a broad spectrum of the national population to assure that they will reflect the interests and outlooks of all people…Skilled persons reflecting all of the American people should have a hand in supporting the legislative process — whether it is to assist the Congress in making laws or in overseeing the operations of the executive branch. Diversity in the senior levels of executive and legislative branch agencies brings a variety of perspectives and approaches to policy development and implementation…All of these agencies take pride in saying that they hire the best and the brightest. If that is the case, what is preventing minorities and women from moving into their top ranks?”

Christopher Copeland, a specialist in American National Government for the Congressional Research Service at the LOC, said, “The SES represents the most experienced and senior segment of the federal government’s career workforce, and provides needed continuity as presidential administrations and Congress change. Racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in federal agencies’ SES ranks can bring a variety of perspectives and approaches to policy development and implementation. Many observers have found diversity in the leadership of public organizations to be a key organizational component for executing agencies’ missions, ensuring accountability to the American people, and achieving results.” Mr. Copeland highlighted several findings from the report:

  • in FY2007, women held 35.8 percent of the SES positions in the six legislative branch agencies;
  • the SES corps was less diverse in terms of women in four of the six agencies;
  • female representation in the SES increased between FY2002 and 2007 in most of the legislative branches, with the exception of (the) CBO, which experienced a decline in female senior executives;
  • the legislative branch agencies also had a higher percentage of women in their SES ranks in 2007 — 35.8 percent compared to 28.9 percent in the executive branch; and
  • the number of women in the legislative branch SES increased by 17 between FY2002 and FY2007 (from 107 to 124), raising the percentage of the SES who were women from 31.6 percent to 35.8 percent.Stephanie Ruiz, director of Human Resources and Equal Employment Opportunity Officer at the CBO, explained the challenges of acquiring a diverse pool of applicants: “CBO employs individuals who have the specialized skills necessary to perform the complex economic and budgetary analyses that the Congress requires…Because of the specialized skills needed at CBO, the organization faces a substantial challenge in achieving a diverse workforce, given the demographics of individuals who complete the necessary requirements. According to the most recent Survey of Earned Doctorates, there were approximately 1,000 recipients of doctorates in economics in 2005. Only 30 percent of those newly minted PhD economists were women…The characteristics of graduates are somewhat less of a problem in recruiting master’s level employees. For example, data from the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration suggest that 57 percent of those completing master’s degrees in 2005 were female.”

    Aware of the absence of diversity in the SES, all of the agencies cited outreach efforts to attract more female and minority applicants. The LOC, for example, conducts a Leadership Development Program for “library staff in [employment] grades GS-11 through GS-13 from diverse backgrounds [who] are selected to participate in a year-long training and development program designed to prepare them to compete for leadership and management positions in the Library.” Dennis Hanratty, director of Human Services at LOC, noted, “Since the program’s inception in 1995, six Leadership Development classes have graduated 57 staff. Of those, 64.9 percent have been minorities and 70 percent of the graduates have been women.”

    Teresa Bailey, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity/Conciliation Programs at the Office of the Architect of the Capitol; William Bransford, general counsel for the Senior Executives Association; Nadine Elzy, director of Equal Employment Opportunity at the GPO; Shirley Jones, president of the GAO chapter of Blacks in the Government; Sharon Blackmon-Malloy, president of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association; Daniel Nichols, assistant chief of police of the U.S. Capitol Police; and Ronald Stroman, managing director of the Office of Opportunity and Inclusiveness at the GAO, also testified.

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