President Joe Biden signed a wide-ranging executive order on June 25 to strengthen and advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) throughout the federal government.
"As the nation's largest employer, the federal government must be a model for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, where all employees are treated with dignity and respect," the order states.
It directs the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget to lead the initiative in partnership with the White House and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The executive order comes just nine days after Biden signed a law that made Juneteenth—June 19, a celebration of the end of slavery—a federal holiday.
The DE&I executive order covers a wide range of groups that have historically faced employment discrimination and professional barriers: people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, first-generation professionals and immigrants, individuals with disabilities, Americans living in rural areas, older Americans who face age discrimination when seeking employment, parents and caregivers who face employment barriers, people of faith who require religious accommodations at work, individuals who were formerly incarcerated, and veterans and military spouses.
- Asks all federal agencies to review within 100 days whether employees who are members of underserved communities face barriers to employment, promotion or professional development within their workforce.
- Directs agencies to establish or elevate chief diversity officers within their organizations.
- Expands diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility training throughout the federal workforce.
- Addresses workplace harassment, including sexual harassment.
- Reduces the federal government's reliance on unpaid internships, which can create barriers for low-income students and first-generation professionals.
- Advances pay equity to ensure that all public servants are fairly compensated for their work and their talents, including directing the OPM to consider taking steps to prohibit agencies from using a job applicant's salary history to make compensation decisions.
- Advances equity in the workplace for individuals with disabilities and people who identify as LGBTQ+.
- Expands employment opportunities for people who were formerly incarcerated.
- Charges agencies with developing new recruitment partnerships to create a more-diverse talent pipeline.
- Improves the collection of demographic data on the federal workforce. This includes information on which employees are able to access professional development and advancement opportunities so as to advance equity in professional development.
SHRM Online has collected the following news stories and resources about the federal government's new DE&I initiative.
Biden Signs Sweeping DE&I Initiative
The directive states that the federal government "must strengthen its ability to recruit, hire, develop, promote, and retain our Nation's talent and remove barriers to equal opportunity. It must also provide resources and opportunities to strengthen and advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across the Federal Government."
Included among the comprehensive order is the stipulation that the head of each federal agency take a data-driven approach to advancing policies that promote diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility within the agency's workforce.
Biden Executive Order Aims to Further Equity, Inclusiveness in Federal Hiring
The directive builds on Biden's Inauguration Day promise for "an ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda," according to a White House fact sheet accompanying the order. "The enduring legacies of employment discrimination, systemic racism, and gender inequality are still felt today," the White House statement reads. "Too many underserved communities remain under-represented in the federal workforce, especially in positions of leadership."
The order, the White House said, is designed to "take a systematic approach to embedding" DE&I and accessibility in federal hiring and employment.
President Biden Signs Sweeping Executive Order to Promote Improved Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility Across Federal Workforce
In a complete 180-degree turn from the anti-diversity initiative former President Donald Trump issued during his final months in office, Biden issued a new executive order tasking the dozens of various departments and agencies within the federal government to each create and submit their own unique plan on how they can increase diversity and inclusion efforts within their workforces.
The order is meant to encourage a "direct, comprehensive rethinking" of how DE&I efforts can and should operate within each of these agencies.
How to Address Workplace Bias
This resource page from the Society for Human Resource Management offers tips on rooting out hidden bias, creating an inclusive workplace, building a business case for diversity and inclusion, and many other sources of information.