The Unintended Consequence of Special Hiring Authorities for Vets: Fewer Women Hires

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The federal government hired more women in 2000 than it did in 2012, according to a new analysis, part of an upcoming report from the Merit Systems Protection Board.

The percentage of new employees hired in 2012 who were female dropped to 37 percent, down from 43 percent at the start of the 21st century, MSPB found in a review of data from the Office of Personnel Management.

Part of the trend can be explained by job type: More men than women apply for federal jobs in law enforcement and technology, for instance, whereas women tend to dominate in health care fields. But MSPB found that the type of hiring authority that federal agencies have used over the past few years to bring new employees on board has had a big impact on who is hired. “Most of the methods used to hire new employees in 2012 resulted in a greater proportion of males than females entering the federal workforce,” MSPB noted in its fall 2014 newsletter.

Veterans hired in 2012 through the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act and Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment authorities were overwhelmingly male -- 80 percent and 76 percent, respectively -- since men still dominate in the military. MSPB also found that more than 35 percent of those hired under what’s known as competitive examining, the standard hiring authority, were veterans. President Obama has made hiring more vets into the civil service a major priority.

But that increase has contributed to an unintended consequence – the government hiring fewer women. “Our research shows that as use of veterans hiring authorities increased, the percentage of female new hires decreased,” MSPB said.

Sixty-one percent of the new hires in 2012 hired through direct hiring authority were women, according to MSPB. Agencies use that authority to fill vacancies in jobs where there’s a severe shortage of candidates or critical hiring need, in nursing, for example. Sixty-four percent of new hires in 2012 hired through competitive examination were male, while 55 percent of those who entered government through student hiring were men. Most of the male new hires in these categories were in information technology, engineering and law enforcement – all professions currently dominated by men.

MSPB reviewed the data as part of its upcoming report on fair and open competition in federal hiring, and revealed its early findings to bring the trend to the attention of agencies and hiring managers, the newsletter stated. “An over-reliance on too few hiring authorities may not be healthy for an organization’s culture, as those authorities may not result in a workforce that is representative of society,” the agency said.

A recent report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission showed that, overall, the percentage of women in the federal workforce was declining, while the percentage of minority employees has remained stagnant. As of March 2014, women made up about 44 percent of the federal workforce; 45 percent of the federal workforce was female in 2000.

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