Executive diversity legislation gains support

Diversity organizations are confident that legislation aimed at increasing the number of women and minorities in the Senior Executive Service can pass Congress in 2008, and they are moving forward with training programs to help members move up in the ranks.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill. introduced bills in October that would create a resource center for oversight of SES diversity efforts, promote mentoring programs and collect and publish statistics in the Federal Register.

"It seems pretty noncontroversial," said Janet Kopenhaver, a representative for Federally Employed Women, a Washington advocacy group. "I would hope that we could get it through the Congress next year. They've had a lot on their plate. This is not one of these big issues that you read about, but maybe we can get it through on the merits."

Kopenhaver said ongoing training would be key in addition to any changes the legislation made. "If we can get more training so … they know how to get into that feeder pool, [that] is important," she said. FEW offers programs in a variety of skill areas every July.

FEW members now are concentrating on lining up more sponsors for the legislation to demonstrate that it has momentum. So far, Akaka is alone in supporting his bill in the Senate. In the House, Davis has nine co-sponsors for the bill, including Reps. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo.; Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; Charles Gonzales, D-Texas; Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas; Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio; Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.; John Sarbanes, D-Md.; and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.

Both bills are waiting for action by the subcommittees that Akaka and Davis chair. But Kopenhaver said she was pleased with how far the diversity legislation had come and the amount of time that had been devoted to the issue.

"A lot of this year was used in drafting the bill, and that takes a couple of months, the behind-the-scenes work, getting it off the ground," she said. "There was work done this year; it wasn't out in the open."

Next week, the Washington chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives will kick off its Leadership and Senior Executive Service series. The sessions are designed to help NAHFE members learn more about what it takes to join the SES ranks. Davis will address attendees at the first session.

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