FBI’s Scott McMillion on Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility
He is the agency’s first-ever chief diversity officer.
The FBI’s first ever chief diversity officer is spearheading a “cultural shift” at the agency in which “diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility is literally within our DNA,” after years of struggling to make progress.
Scott McMillion, a 23-year-veteran of the agency, became the FBI’s first chief diversity officer in April and now leads the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which was established in 2012. Government Executive reported back in February 2020 about how the agency has failed to make much progress on cultivating a diverse workforce over the previous decade.
McMillion is looking to change that and commended FBI Director Christopher Wray for prioritizing diversity, aligning the FBI’s goals with those of the Biden administration for the federal workforce overall.
The following interview was adapted from Government Executive’s “Future of Work” event earlier in the fall with McMillion.
GE: First, I’d like to ask what you are doing to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility and how that fits with President Biden’s executive order on advancing those priorities across the workforce?
McMillion: [The FBI] director has three priority initiatives and I'm so happy that diversity is one of them, which also includes elements of equity, inclusion and accessibility. We're doing things particularly in the area of recruitment … where we have the least number of minorities [and] women. And so with those hiring initiatives, such as the Beacon Project, a project designed to reach out to historically black colleges and universities, we can ensure that individuals who never considered the FBI will consider us down the road. Our collegiate hiring initiative, as well as our honors internship program, [enables us] to put special emphasis on hiring persons from diverse backgrounds.
In fiscal year 2022 we are including other groups into that hiring initiative—beacon—where we'll look for women, Hispanics, Asians, and other indigenous people and Native Americans as well as Asian and Pacific Islanders. We have a lot of initiatives with targeted advertisements so that we can get those diverse populations. The other aspect that we are looking at are minorities and women in the pipeline and the pipeline for upward mobility.
We're looking to identify individuals through our cross cultural mentoring sponsorship program, which allows individuals who are in senior levels to mentor and sponsor other individuals who don't necessarily look like them or nor come from the same communities they come from, to mentor them to ensure that they have the tools and understand the necessary keys and nuggets of information to succeed and be successful in climbing the ladder to upward mobility, senior level, frontline and executive level positions.
We have several programs as well as with our affinity groups to help ensure that our organization is feeling like the family that we safeguard. The other things that we love to do are the special events and commemorative events.
GE: Could you talk more about the data strategies you use and if there's any type of data that you don't have access to that you would want?
McMillion: Here at the FBI, we're literally looking at doing a cultural shift, to change where diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility is literally within our DNA, We like to measure and ensure that data is speaking to that cultural shift and change. I talked a little bit about the special and commemorative events … Now we want to know how many of our individuals are coming to those? How many field offices are actually putting those on? And for some of those we have put in measures that field officers have to do a certain number and then headquarters would do a certain number here.
We’ve done studies since 2017 and are continuing to do studies that show the [career] life cycle [of the] special agent position, and we can see exactly what some of the barriers are, some of those hurdles and those challenges. We can see where people are dropping out. We can also see various aspects that are key to understanding the context of the numbers … and we produce those numbers [for] our executive staff so they can see just what we look like. It's very transparent, very clear to our executive leaders to see what their offices look like, what the dynamics and demographics are.
GE: Following the expansion of telework due to the COVID-19 pandemic for those that are able, is telework a way to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce?
McMillion: Telework is an option that we’ve had in the past and we still have today; however, it's done on a very limited basis and for those employees and job classes that allowed them to do that. With that being said, I will tell anyone who's willing to serve, we can make some of those flexibilities happen on an individual basis with other positions that are in the unclassified realm of the FBI. And there are some challenges to that. We just don't necessarily lend ourselves to that in all capacities, but we do have some classes and positions that will allow that.
GE: The FBI has various field offices throughout the country. Do you approach diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility the same way in all of them?
McMillion: We have an overarching strategy that comes from headquarters that we put out to our 56 field offices. And then from those 56 field offices, they develop their individual strategies for their areas of responsibility to make sure they're meeting our metrics and measures that we have set from a national level.
All of our 56 field offices, as well as our 33 divisions at headquarters, have diversity and inclusion coordinators, and they're the people that we'd like to say are ambassadors … that are out there in the field to ensure that those special events and commemorative programs, diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility mission is being achieved in each individual field office. So that's very important to us.
GE: How do you see employee benefits, such as childcare or senior care, helping agencies recruit a more diverse workforce?
McMillion: The FBI family is very, very good about if there are situations that warrant a special transfer or medical leave, even if individual employees need to be in a specific location. I would take that on a case-by-case basis. And so, it's not something that we do necessarily for the recruiting aspect or incentive that we have, that is something that we just do as a family.
Childcare is one of those things that is not easy, necessarily, for us to incentivize or to have as incentive… But we do have things, such as people can go into a part time status as a special agent. Other positions warrant the flexibility and nimbleness that allows certain situations where someone can be at home at certain hours. Those types of alternate work hours and work schedules are done on an individual basis.
GE: Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you would like to add?
McMillion: I'm just so happy that our leadership, Director Chris Wray, is personally committed to the area of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, as well as most senior executives in the FBI. They literally emphasize and believe in the mission because we recognize that it makes it a better FBI.