U.S. Postal Service employees place packages into a new package sorting machine, ahead of the holiday mail rush at the Torrance Post Office on Nov. 27, 2023 in Torrance, California.

U.S. Postal Service employees place packages into a new package sorting machine, ahead of the holiday mail rush at the Torrance Post Office on Nov. 27, 2023 in Torrance, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

USPS’ workforce is very diverse. Its management is less so.

Historically disadvantaged groups fare worse than white colleagues in getting promoted to higher-level positions, new audit finds.

The U.S. Postal Service has grown more diverse in recent years and is “one of the most diverse workforces in the nation,” according to a new watchdog report, though its management is still disproportionately comprised of white employees. 

A slight majority of USPS workers are of historically disadvantaged races or ethnicities, the Government Accountability Office found in its review, significantly exceeding the federal workforce writ large. From 2016 to 2022, Black employees went from 25% to 30% of the postal workforce and Latino employees went from 10% to 13%. That compared to 19% and 9% in the larger federal workforce in 2022, respectively. 

The postal workforce is divided into three general categories: craft workers, who are the letter carriers and clerks that make up 90% of all employees; management, who are non-union front-line supervisors and middle managers and number 40,000; and executives, who are the roughly 600 top officials at the agency. Two-thirds of USPS’ executives are white, GAO found, compared to 56% of the overall workforce. While the Postal Service has grown representation in its top ranks in recent years, some groups still lag behind. Just 38% of executives are women, compared to 46% of the postal workforce and just 7% are Latino, just more than half of the overall workforce’s rate .

About 63% of USPS managers are white, also a disproportionately high percentage. Black employees are 9% less likely than their white counterparts to go from a craft role to a front-line supervisory position, GAO found, while Asian employees were 25% less likely. Asian and Black employees were 40% to 50% less likely to move from supervisor positions to middle management, while Latinos were 28% less likely. Asian and Black employees were twice as likely, however, to jump from middle-management to executive positions. 

Controlling for factors such as tenure, GAO found employees from historically disadvantaged groups earned less than their white colleagues. Black, Asian and Latino employees earned between 1% and 1.5% less than white colleagues among front-line supervisors, 3% to 5% less than middle-management coworkers and 5% to 9% less than executive colleagues. 

“Although USPS employs one of the most diverse workforces in the nation, certain historically disadvantaged racial or ethnic groups and women continue to be underrepresented in USPS leadership positions relative to the overall USPS workforce,” GAO said. 

Postal management on an annual basis identifies trends and anomalies that could create issues for employees of color or who are otherwise underrepresented, but told GAO it has not identified any actual barriers in 15 years. It disputed GAO’s characterization of those trends as “potential barriers,” though the auditors said USPS should be investigating them more thoroughly. 

In response to the report, Jenny Utterback, USPS’ vice president for organization development, took significant issues with much of GAO’s process and many of its findings. 

“In light of the Postal Service’s longstanding commitment to diversity, we have concerns about the representations of our workforce and the sometimes misleading representation of facts throughout GAO’s report related to our workforce diversity efforts,” Utterback said. 

In part, postal management’s concerns stemmed from GAO’s use of statistics, saying the auditors did not properly account for errors. GAO rejected that criticism, saying it followed general statistical principles. 

“The adjustment that USPS advised would reduce the likelihood of false discovery, but at the same time reduce our ability to detect potentially important disparities, and therefore is not an adjustment that is universally applicable or advisable,” GAO said. 

GAO flagged that USPS does not maintain complete demographic data from applicants and said management’s attempts to address the problem were inadequate. USPS has sought to deploy a system to better collect the data since 2012, but now does not expect it will be fully operational until 2028. It does not have a plan for how it will use its demographic data once it collects the information and GAO said it should develop one. 

Utterback said all of GAO’s recommendations were redundant to efforts already underway. GAO noted the Postal Service had demonstrated “promising” progress, but still fell short in several areas related to its diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility program. The watchdog praised postal leadership for taking the issue seriously and applauded Louis DeJoy for giving a speech on the topic last year. 

Still, GAO said, USPS should create better performance metrics for its diversity goals and improve its solicitation and utilization of feedback from affinity and other employee groups. 

“The Postal Service remains committed to ensuring our workforce reflects the diverse communities we serve, at all levels of the organization,” Utterback said. “We will continue our efforts to continually enhance the diversity of our organization through targeted recruitment, expanding employee development opportunities and enhancing leadership development and corporate succession planning.”