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Reducing the Impact of Bias in the STEM Workforce

In October 2015, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) established an Interagency Policy Group to identify policies and practices to increase diversity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce both in the Federal Government and in federally-funded institutions of higher education, by reducing the impact of implicit and explicit bias in their respective recruitment, hiring, development and training processes.

The Interagency Policy Group compiled a report highlighting the contributions of the Federal STEM Workforce and the federally-funded Institutions of Higher Education STEM Workforce to reduce the impact of bias in the STEM workforce. The report also includes recommendations for policies, practices and next steps from each agency to further reduce the effect of bias and increase diversity in the STEM workforce.  Below is a summary of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s internal and external efforts in support of this effort.

U.S. Department of Transportation

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Ladders of Opportunity agenda forms the foundation of the agency’s work to reduce the impact of bias. The Ladders initiative seeks to ensure that all DOT activities, decisions and projects connect people to opportunities, create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and are responsive to the needs and aspirations of the communities they impact.

As part of DOT’s commitment to ensure that opportunity is institutionalized throughout the Department, Secretary Foxx recently created the position of Chief Opportunities Officer, the first such position in any federal agency.

In order to guarantee the sustainability of its opportunity agenda, DOT conducts regular civil rights training for agency employees on topics such as Diversity and Inclusion, Prevention of Workplace Harassment, Reasonable Accommodation, the EEO Complaint Process, Bullying, and Civility. In 2015, DOT hosted the first in a series of planned diversity/self-advocacy/leadership events entitled, “DOT Planting Seeds:  Select Your Destination” and hosts an annual civil rights symposium. DOT’s Workforce Quality Division and its Disability Resource Center have held training workshops on: applying for federal jobs, preparing resumes, and interviewing techniques for STEM and other careers.  In addition, it has led a mentoring program and math tutoring program for secondary students.  Also DOT’s “Bring your Children to Work” seminar and expo has had a STEM component to encourage interest in technical transportation careers.  The Department’s Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution offers services and training courses in Basic Mediation Skills Training, Confliction Resolution Skills, Transformative Mediation, and Negotiation Skills.

The DOT also offers dynamic executive coaching to GS-15 managers and members of the Senior Executive Service to improve leadership performance and employee engagement and partners closely with various Human Resources subject matter experts to acquire knowledge that may impact barrier analysis or drive equity and inclusion concerns. Together, the programs have penned a more transparent, action-oriented EEO and Diversity standard for managers. DOT has a long-standing history of incorporating mandatory SES performance expectations requiring senior leaders to be personally involved in leading and implementing diversity and inclusion, EEO, and civil rights initiatives consistent with applicable laws and executive orders.  DOT SES are held accountable to “proactively lead and engage in activities that demonstrate, sustain, and promote diversity and inclusion”. This mandatory language is included in the “Leading People” critical element of all DOT SES performance plans, which accounts for 20 percent of the executive’s performance rating. DOT is renewing its emphasis on enhancing the recruitment process, and is implementing new strategies to improve its practices with a top-down approach.  DOT’s Executive Resources Board (ERB) requires a recruitment plan for every Senior Executive Service (SES) position, and has recently made additional changes to enrich applicant pools for these critical leadership roles.  For example, DOT has adopted the SES/Executive Resume-Based Hiring Method to ensure a more diverse pool of applicants for senior management positions. These changes have led to larger, more diverse candidate pools and alignment of recruitment practices among the entire Department.

In addition, through DOT’s involvement in the development of the Strategic Human Capital Plan, DOT has established human capital actions— Broaden the Leadership Pipeline—that will both establish internal leadership pipelines and proactive recruitment programs that go beyond posting jobs on USAJobs. DOT’s General Schedule employee’s performance plans must include at least one critical element aligned with DOT, OA and/or organizational goals or objectives.  Employees whose plan includes the Department’s Strategic Goal – Organizational Excellence are held accountable to “develop a diverse and collaborative workforce that will enable the Department to advance a transportation system that serves the Nation’s long-term social, economic, security and environmental needs.”

Last updated: Wednesday, July 20, 2016