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Female Feds Feel Less Empowered Than Males, Survey Finds

Workplace diversity analysis shows Asians most satisfied, those with disabilities less.

Women in the federal workforce report feeling less empowered than their male colleagues, while Asians, of all the surveyed minority groups, experience the highest job satisfaction, according to an analysis set for release Friday by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte.

The latest in a series titled “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” the new installment on "Diversity and Inclusion" includes for the first time responses on quality of work life from veterans and employees with disabilities, with the latter reporting more negative views than co-workers who claim no disability.

Using responses to questions on leadership, support for diversity goals and satisfaction levels by ethnic group from the 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, analysts culled patterns and offered recommendations to managers for taking better advantage of the country’s demographic trends.

“The largest male-female gap regarding leadership centered on employee perceptions of fairness,” the report said. “Women, for example, scored five points lower than men when asked if they felt comfortable disclosing violations of laws.”

The widest gender gap on diversity issues emerged on a question asking how well supervisors and managers worked with employees of different backgrounds. “Women rated their supervisors and managers 3.6 points lower than did men, indicating some room for managers, team leaders, and supervisors to grow in this area,” the report said.

Federal workers with disabilities were less satisfied overall with their workplace than those without disabilities by a 7.2-point margin; their scores were also lower on their evaluation of agency leadership.

Trends in the responses varied by agency. While there was little overall difference between the views of veterans and non-veterans, veterans reported lower satisfaction than the governmentwide index by 9.6 points at the Federal Trade Commission, by 9.1 at the Securities and Exchange Commission, by 8.3 at the Federal Communications Commission and by 7.4 at the Commerce Department. “At the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a handful of other agencies, veterans scored higher than non-veterans,” the analysts observed.

Women scored nearly four points lower in the index score than men at the Labor and the Army departments. By contrast, female employees scored 13.1 points higher than men at the Federal Election Commission, where overall satisfaction for men and women was lower than for other agencies.

To put the data to use, the report recommends that managers:

  • Analyze the data and use it to drive decision making while soliciting employee feedback, for example;
  • Establish a shared vision, shared values and practices among agency leaders to connect diversity and inclusion to agency mission;
  • Actively recruit and develop a diverse workforce, including development of leaders; and
  • Build a culture of commitment to diversity and inclusion, such as support for employee participation in affinity groups.

Statistically, the report breaks down the federal workforce as 56.7 percent male; 65.7 percent white; 17.9 percent African-American; 6.2 percent Hispanic; 5.3 percent Asian; 2 percent Native American and the remaining 2 percent Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or multi-racial. Employees with disabilities make up 11 percent, and veterans comprise 29.2 percent, the report said.

(Image via Africa Studio/