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Every day, the 2.1 million women and men of the Federal Workforce tackle some of our country’s most pressing issues. Whether caring for our veterans, supporting our troops, fighting forest fires, or planning a mission to Mars, Federal employees are focused on making life better for the American people.
In a 2014 address, President Obama said: “To rise to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we need a Federal Workforce with the necessary skills, experience, and tools to meet its diverse mission now and in the future.” At the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), we work to fulfill this vision. Our mission is to help agencies recruit, retain, and honor a world-class Federal workforce to serve the American people.
Today, OPM has joined our sister agencies in sketching out for the American people a summary of the efforts we have made during this administration to fulfill the President’s vision.
Over the past eight years, our overarching focus has been to modernize the way OPM supports agencies, current and former Federal employees, and their families. By embracing new ways to use data to make decisions, investing in new tools and technologies, and streamlining our processes, we have helped foster a workforce capable of tackling 21st century challenges. In particular, we have focused on:
The memorandum goes into detail about our agency-wide efforts. I want to highlight just some of the work we’ve done. You can see a fuller description of these efforts and what we see as the best way to continue this journey in OPM’s full memorandum.
In striving to make the Federal government a model employer, OPM has expanded opportunities for people from all elements of society. We’ve made progress in closing the gender pay gap, increased workplace flexibilities to help employees balance their work life and home life. We’ve also promoted diversity and inclusion in the Federal workforce.
Strengthening the personnel system needs to reinforce and build on the merit system principles that represent the bedrock values that have long stood as the foundation of this nation’s civil service system.
Through our Pathways programs we’ve created clearer paths to Federal careers for students and recent graduates and enabled the government to compete more effectively with the private sector for this talent. We’ve brought experts from the private sector into government through innovative fellowship programs. And we established a hiring excellence campaign to help human resources specialists and managers hire the critical talent they need.
The events of recent years have underscored the need to guard against threats to the Federal Government’s personnel, property, and information systems. OPM plays a central role in protecting against threats as we conduct 95 percent of the Federal Government’s background investigations that help agencies make employment, security clearance, and credentialing decisions. By establishing the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) and continuing to modernize the background investigations process, OPM has come a long way in helping the Federal Government build and maintain a trusted workforce.
At OPM customer service is at the heart of everything we do. OPM has embraced new tools and technologies to help deliver better customer service and better secure the information we house. We’ve made significant progress in modernizing and securing information technology systems. We continue to provide high quality health benefits for the 9.2 million Federal employees, retirees and their families who are enrolled in the Federal Employment health Benefit program.
These are some of the highlights of the work OPM has done during this administration to fulfill our mission to recruit, hire, develop, retain and honor the men and women who work every day to deliver excellent service to the American people.
There is much more work to be done. I am confident that the dedicated men and women of OPM will continue in their efforts to build an even greater workforce now, and in the future.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to highlight OPM’s commitment to ensuring that all women -- and men -- are offered the flexibilities they need to be productive, satisfied members of the Federal workforce. OPM encourages agencies to help their employees balance the needs of their lives inside and outside of work.
In January, the President signed a memorandum titled, Modernizing Federal Leave Policies for Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care to Recruit and Retain Talent and Improve Productivity. It directs agencies to advance Federal workers up to six weeks paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family member. In his State of the Union address, the President also called on Congress to enact legislation to provide Federal workers with up to six weeks of paid parental leave.
The President’s memorandum builds on this past June’s White House Summit on Working Families, an event that explored a variety of issues important to working families, including workplace flexibility. OPM is contributing to these efforts by developing a handbook on Leave for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care. I believe it is important for Federal employees and their managers to fully understand our policies related to family life events. We do not want women to feel that they must choose between their responsibilities to their family and their obligations to their careers.
To develop the handbook, we are partnering with Federal agencies to gather information on existing workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. OPM is asking agency leave experts to identify common questions and misconceptions. This summer, we will analyze the data we receive and send a report to the President. This document will describe best practices, barriers, and limitations in achieving work-life balance. It also will suggest possible solutions to roadblocks that working families encounter.
OPM has long had in place policies that make it easier for women to meet their full career potential. We’ve created flexible work schedules, expanded sick leave to include caring for family members who are ill, developed telework policies, and come closer to eliminating the gender pay gap.
Sensible workplace polices like these are an integral part of OPM’s Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion – or REDI – roadmap. REDI provides agencies with the tools to attract, hire, promote, and retain top talent for the Federal government and build a model workforce now, and the future.
Our work-life policies are continually evolving to make the balance of caring for families and pursuing a career complementary, rather than contradictory. The women who have come before us have set an incredible example of dedicated Federal service. We hope to honor their contributions by doing all that we can to meet the needs of women today.
This week, as part of his agenda for expanding opportunity for all Americans and building an economy that works for everyone, President Obama took action to strengthen the enforcement of equal pay laws for employees of Federal contractors. The President also again called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would extend these same protections to all workers.
One of the executive actions the President signed on Tuesday provides a critical tool to encourage pay transparency, so workers will have better data to combat any potential pay discrimination or disparities of which they otherwise may have been unaware.
Today, as part of our larger focus on ensuring transparency within the Federal government, the Office of Personnel Management is releasing a study the President ordered to examine the federal government’s progress to guarantee that all workers can earn a fair and equal wage.
Our report, a Government-wide Strategy on Advancing Pay Equality, looks at the pay of Federal employees over the past 20 years and finds that while we have made important progress toward closing the gender wage gap, we still have work to do.
According to our comprehensive, in-depth review of 37 white-collar Federal job categories, in 2012, women were paid 87 cents for every dollar that a man was paid. In 1992, women in the Federal workforce made just 70 cents on the dollar.
This is a significant improvement over the past 20 years. In fact, when we looked at individual occupations and pay grades, we found that men and women in many occupations make comparable pay.
We also found that there was greater pay equity in occupations and grade levels across Federal white-collar employment.
But while our report shows the progress that we’ve made, we won’t be satisfied until women working in federal jobs earn the same as their male counterparts, at every level. That’s why our report also lays out a roadmap for how we can continue to address this pay disparity. For starters, we need to address the imbalance of hiring in all occupations. We need to build stronger pipelines for women across the board. We also must improve the transparency of our pay tables, particularly when it comes to starting salaries for women, which tend to lag behind men’s.
We also still have work to do when it comes to managers and executives. It is encouraging that our report found that the salary gap for supervisors and managers was less than five cents on the dollar, and for women in the Senior Executive Service (SES), the highest level of Federal leadership, the gap is less than one penny on the dollar.
But women also hold only just one third of these positions – and that’s a number that needs to grow. That’s why we have made it a top priority to mentor women who hold GS14 and GS15 positions to advance into SES jobs. We are doing this nationwide, by connecting SES women working with local Federal Executive Boards to hold coffee chats and other mentoring programs. We’re working with women’s Employee Resource Groups to develop strong training and information programs about how best to get to the SES.
We have a clear guiding principle in Federal law: Federal employees must be paid equal pay for equal work. And that’s a standard that we are committed to reaching across the federal government.
As the Director of the Office of Personnel Management I will continue to strive to make the Federal government a model for ensuring that all people, no matter their gender, are paid equally and fairly for the work they do.
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