Anything can have DEIA if agencies watch hard enough
It’s time to associate words: if I say “diversity, equity and inclusion”, do you say “race? Maybe “women”, maybe “LGBTQ?” Do you think how many women are in my office, how many black and brown people are in my office, how many Asians or openly gay people? Now, if I add “accessibility” to this list, do you say “disabilities” or can people in wheelchairs move around my office easily?
You are not wrong to interpret DEIA this way. Faces, bodies, last names, accents, and proportionality should all be included in federal agencies’ efforts to comply with Executive Order 14035, but they are not comprehensive. If people in your workplace, your group of friends, your family, or perhaps you, still struggle to understand these principles, it’s no surprise. Our societal conceptualization of DEIA has changed dramatically over a short period of human history. Since 2004, DEIA’s share of Google searches has been nearly non-existent when it comes to diversity and equity, but the greatest source of interest in the term so far is in Washington, D.C.
Traditionally, we have viewed these terms as being limited to human bodies and where those bodies exist. But if we only measure DEIA in this way, we risk overlooking other equally important gaps in our systems and policies. These shortcomings may not have a human face, but they can ultimately hurt people. Several examples from recent Federal News Network coverage illustrate the multiple angles from which agencies must view the DEIA if they are to make lasting progress.
Expand the network of business opportunities
The Biden administration wants $100 billion more for contracts to go to disadvantaged small businesses over the next five years. As Lesley Field, acting director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin On Tuesday, the federal government spent $145 billion in fiscal year 2020 with small businesses, or about 26% of eligible dollars. But only about 10%, or $59 billion, went to disadvantaged small businesses.
It starts with improving access, making contract information more searchable and easier to understand for small businesses that may lack experience or expert support, or simply a large staff. to navigate the confusing world of federal contracts on their own. As Field said, industry awareness is key, as is making information in places like USASpending more user-friendly and limiting unnecessary restrictions in contract language.
What We Honor in Federal Art
The criteria for participation in the Art in Architecture program for federal buildings will expand the definition of “acceptable artistic styles”. The General Services Administration said in a recent memo that past art projects “did not necessarily reflect the diversity of the communities in which they were located,” as Federal News Network reported last week.
Art in government buildings took off during the Beaux-Arts era of the mid-19and century, then again during the New Deal era in the 1930s and mid-century brutalism. While these styles have their merits, it should be remembered that they coincided with the pre-war era, Jim Crow laws, Chinese Exclusion Law, and the establishment of Native American boarding schools, when depictions of people and historical events came from a white, Eurocentric point of view. . Art evolves to reflect the world, and art displayed in public buildings with taxpayers’ money sends a message about what the government considers worth remembering in history. We no longer live in the 1850s, and neither should the way we decorate our buildings.
Federal Minimum Wage Increase
While the Office of Personnel Management’s recent announcement that the federal minimum wage will be raised to $15 an hour will only affect the pay of about 67,000 of the government’s roughly 2 million employees, the implications go further. An additional 300,000 contractors will also see their salaries increased, and jobs that pay minimum wage are generally not things people can do while working from home. Customer service, firefighting, guard duty on military bases, and health care aides are some examples of jobs that are disproportionately performed by people of color or people with less education, but who are not no less difficult than software programming. They are necessary to keep facilities and services running, as we have clearly seen during the pandemic, and increasing base pay improves fairness for those who make them. It also sends a message to states and private employers who pay lower minimum wages: the federal government might be the best option among job opportunities in your city.
Carbon footprints affect communities differently
Near the end of the White House’s federal sustainability plan, which contains several year-specific goals to reduce government carbon emissions, there are several abstract ambitions aimed at promoting environmental justice. Executive Order 14008 created the Justice40 initiative, which would direct “40 percent of overall benefits from relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities” and track performance with an environmental justice scorecard. Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful participation of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin or income, in the development, implementation and enforcement of laws , environmental regulations and policies. The term may be new to some, but it has been part of the Environmental Protection Agency since 1992, when President Bill Clinton created the Office of Environmental Justice. Federal agencies are compelled to consider how the environmental impacts of government sites and infrastructure affect local populations differently, whether they are superfund sites, highways, field offices, or military bases.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
You know those Discover credit card commercials that show a customer talking to a sales rep who looks and talks exactly like them, or is actually played by the same actor? We may roll our eyes, but that’s the idea, put ourselves in the shoes of the person seeking help and really listen to what they need. As Jolisa Webb Dudley of the Department of Veterans Affairs said during a panel Wednesday on women and inclusion in the federal workforce, VA must embrace this principle if it wants to better serve the veteran population. homeless fighters. The fastest growing number of homeless service members in the country are not single white men ages 60 and older. They are women, they are women of color, they are young veterans and they are parents. The resources they need will not be the same, and VA should be sensitive to this when working with these populations and designing programs.
DEIA is not limited to the construction site
Military leaders can do a lot in the realm of the workplace or the battlefield. But they have no authority once the service members leave the base. If those service members are also people of color, a uniform does not protect against harassment or discrimination. A diversity and inclusion study conducted by Blue Star Families found that approximately one-third of active duty members said they had been threatened or harassed by local police and communities in the past two years. If a black officer walks through their community and sees Confederate or QAnon flags hanging from homes, the feeling of being in danger does not go away once they return to base. The study found that some service members deliberately turned down postings if they had to go somewhere they perceived to be hostile, and they don’t mean combat zones — they mean South Carolina. Military leaders need to have these conversations with their subordinates, and they need to use their influence to send a message of solidarity when they visit the communities that their bases support economically.
Almost useless factoid
By David Thorton
Octopuses have three hearts: one that pumps blood throughout the body and one specifically for each of its two gills.