Federal Hispanic advisory panel debuts in February

The Hispanic Council on Federal Employment will hold its first meeting on Feb. 11 at the Office of Personnel Management. One of its primary goals will be to advise OPM Director John Berry on Hispanic hiring, recruitment, retainment and advancement.

According to a Jan. 26 notice in the Federal Register, the council is an advisory committee made up of "representatives from Hispanic organizations and senior government officials."

At issue is a lag in Hispanic hiring in federal agencies. While the presence of other minority groups has risen in recent years, following an increased focus on minority hiring and retaining, the percentage of Hispanics in the federal workforce has grown at a much slower rate, flattening between 2008 and 2009.

According to a 2010 OPM report, Hispanics made up just 8 percent of the permanent federal workforce in 2009, compared to 13.9 percent in the private sector; nearly a 6-point gap. Other minority groups -- African-Americans, Asians and Native Americans -- represent a greater proportion of the federal workforce, than do their counterparts in the private sector. Among women, the gap between private and federal representation is much smaller than among the Hispanic population -- women account for 44.2 percent of the federal workforce, compared to 45.9 percent in the private sector.

Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 Stimulus Funds Coordinator Gina Weber, who is Latina, said minority recruitment is one of the agency's top priorities. Weber was recruited by her supervisor straight out of college. "He actually went to my university and said, 'Send me women' and 'Send me minorities' " she said. "I think the issue . . . is that we [Hispanics] have never really considered the federal government as a good place to work, traditionally. . We don't have the same tools that a private company would work with. . . . Unfortunately, a lot of times because of those limitations, we haven't been as good as others [in recruiting], particularly among Latinos."

Weber said the lack of Hispanics in higher-level federal jobs was of greatest concern. For example, African-Americans, she said, have senior-level officials who go out and actively recruit and provide a legacy of government service for that community, but the Hispanic population doesn't yet have that history. Hispanics represented only 4 percent of federal employees at senior pay levels in 2009, according to the OPM report.

In a letter to President Obama accompanying a 2009 report on Hispanics in the federal workforce, Berry wrote that the lack of Hispanics was a pressing issue, and that OPM would take the lead in addressing the diversity issue. "Of greatest concern is that for the year ending June 30, 2009, the percentage of Hispanic new hires decreased from 9.2 percent to 7.3 percent. This is well below the Civilian [Private] Labor Force representation of 13.2 percent," Barry wrote. "OPM is leading an interagency task force on diversity that will develop recommendations for improving our efforts toward a federal government drawn from the diversity of our nation."

The council's meeting on Feb. 11 is open to the public.

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