Women, minorities make gains in senior government jobs

The number of women and minorities in senior-level jobs increased in fiscal 2010, according to a new report from the Office of Personnel Management.

Women represented 31.2 percent of senior-level positions in fiscal 2010, up from 30.4 percent in fiscal 2009; blacks made up 6.7 percent of the top government jobs in 2010, an increase from 6.4 percent in 2009. The proportion of women and minorities in General Schedule grades 13 through 15 increased by 7.9 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively. Overall, though, the number of women employed last year dropped slightly from 2009, from 44.2 percent to 43.9 percent.

The report could not specifically account for the increase in women and minorities at the upper-end of the pay scale but said one reason could be the transition back from pay-for-performance systems (i.e., the Defense Department's National Security Personnel System) to the General Schedule, which in some cases resulted in higher classifications.

Minorities overall represented 33.8 percent of the federal workforce in fiscal 2010, an increase of 5 percent from the previous year. The government also employed more minorities than the national workforce in 2010: blacks accounted for 17.7 of the federal workforce; Hispanics, 8.0 percent; Asian/Pacific Islanders, 5.6 percent; American Indians/Alaska natives, 1.8 percent; and non-Hispanics/multiracials, 0.7 percent. The national labor force employed slightly more women, white workers, and non-Hispanic/multiracial employees than did the federal workforce, but the greatest disparity related to Hispanic hires. Hispanics made up 13.6 percent of employees nationwide in 2010, compared to 8.0 percent of the federal workforce in both 2009 and 2010. The number of Hispanics serving in senior-level government jobs, though, did rise slightly during that time period, from 4 percent to 4.1 percent.

Al Gallegos, national president of the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives, said the small increase in Hispanics at the top tier of government is "really insignificant," though he added that he had not extensively analyzed the data in OPM's report. "I think there is a lot of work that still needs to be done as far as underrepresentation of Hispanics in federal government, especially at the executive level," he wrote in an email. Gallegos said he is working with OPM on the Hispanic Federal Employment Council, and hopes "something positive will come out of it in terms of ideas on how to increase representation and addressing some of these barriers." The council's next meeting is June 17.

In a message accompanying the report, OPM Director John Berry emphasized the federal government's efforts to recruit and retain a diverse workforce, including veterans and employees with disabilities. President Obama in 2009 and 2010 issued executive orders aimed at increasing the number of vets and people with disabilities hired by the government.

Whites still comprised the majority of the national labor force in fiscal 2010, at 70.4 percent.

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