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Speeches & Remarks Federal Inter-Agency Diversity Partnership

Remarks of OPM Director John Berry

Federal Inter-Agency Diversity Partnership

February 28, 2013

As prepared for delivery.

Good morning, and thank you all for coming.

Thank you, Veronica [Villalobos], for that introduction, and Chai [Feldblum, EEOC Commissioner] for your words. It's an honor to be here with you, and with Congresswoman [Sheila] Jackson Lee and so many champions of civil rights and equal opportunity.

I want to thank all of you. You are doing the work that moves the legacy of President Lincoln and Dr. King into this century, and make the dream a reality.

I was a child, in 1963. When Dr. King asked that his children be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin - he was talking about me, and talking about you, about us in this present generation.

It has been a long road, and sometimes a slow one. I began my career in the Federal Government, working for Representative Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, in 1985. He was a member of the Appropriations Committee that was chaired by a man from Mississippi. Out of approximately 100 staff, the Committee employed one African American, the doorman.

Today we have the opportunity and the responsibility to make the Federal workforce the model workforce for the twenty-first century. President Obama has asked us - specifically, all of us in this room - to improve diversity and inclusion in the Federal workforce, and to better tap into the talents of the full range of American perspectives.

And we're making good progress. Our workforce has become much more diverse in the years since the March on Washington - today's Federal workforce is 17.8 percent Black, 8.1 percent Hispanic, 5.6 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 1.7 percent Native American. And we continue to improve.

In 2011, Americans with disabilities made up 14.7% of new hires, a 20-year high. At the leadership level, 5.4% of new hires in the SES were Hispanic, 12.4% were African-American and 37% were women - the share of senior executives from each of those groups has never been higher.

While we still have work to do, we've made great strides in recruiting employees from every neighborhood across America - boosting our diversity.

In our current era, we must do better than simple recruitment - first, because tight budgets mean new hires will be fewer and farther between. Second, because an office that's diverse but not inclusive misses the benefits that diversity brings. If all the secretaries are women and all the supervisors are men, or if the only minorities all work in the EEO office, you can bet that somewhere in that organization, assumptions are going unchallenged, and perspectives are missed.

We can't just look outward and address diversity. We must also look inward - and focus on inclusion.

So what do we mean by inclusion, and how can we achieve it?

Our team at OPM took a statistical approach, using our Employee Viewpoint Survey results. Within the EVS, there are twenty questions that clearly correlate with an inclusive workplace - and a factor analysis further groups these questions into five groups. For example, questions about managing poor performers, differences in performance, and possible favoritism all tend to move up or down together.

That gives us five groups of questions that help evaluate how inclusive the workplace is - is it fair, open, cooperative, supportive, and empowered? We can score these questions and give each agency a measure, which we're calling the New Inclusion Quotient, or New IQ.

The important thing about the New IQ, is that it gives guidance that's unique to the challenges of each agency - it gives you information about where you are, and how you're doing. You can look at these items and say, wow, we're succeeding in training great supervisors who are really open to people from diverse backgrounds, but then none of those people are talking to each other - they're not sharing information in the office, and they're not encouraged to collaborate. Let's work on that.

Or maybe the reverse is true in your office - you've got collaborative teams that have turned into cliques, and keep freezing people out. With the New IQ, you'll be able to evaluate and take aim at your challenges - and you'll be able to look around for agencies that you can learn from.

Now make no mistake, this is still a tough challenge to tackle. It's your hard work that will translate good policies into good practices. It will take dedication and persistence and partnership. And many days, the work you achieve will seem too small and the work you have left will seem too daunting.

But let me tell you a story. Not a story of Lincoln or King, but a story of their legacies. In 1996, two astronauts - two Federal employees - stepped out of the space shuttle Endeavor. One was the Wisconsin-born son of Chinese immigrants. The other was an African-American naval engineer and pilot. Together they began tests on construction techniques for a new and ambitious project that would span decades and bring together five space agencies and fifteen countries.

Today, the International Space Station is large enough that it can be seen from the ground with the naked eye. It passes overhead every ninety-two minutes. It has been home to human beings for more than twelve years. And it would not have been possible without the endeavors and cooperation and collaboration of people the world over.

The astronauts who have been there - and nearly every astronaut who's reached above our atmosphere - will tell you that when you are in space, nothing is more transfixing than a window, facing Earth. From 250 miles up, you can't help but see how our oceans flow one into the other, and clouds sweep and mountains march across borders without taking note.

It seems to me poetic that this place that we have built together shows so clearly that we are not so different. We share one world, and we breathe from one thin blanket of air - which sustains us and enfolds us, protecting us from the void of space and its minus 270 degrees. Only together can we hope to sustain life on our fragile island home.

Each of you works to bring together the ideas and perspectives of our nation, so that we can rise above the challenges of our day. That's why we do this work.

And if you ever need a reminder, walk down to the Lincoln Memorial, past the monument to Dr. King. Stand on those marble steps on a cold, clear evening, just after the sun has set. And when you see a speck of light circling through the stars, know it carries men and women much like you. Let that tiny light serve as your beacon and reminder: when we work together, we all soar.

That is just one of the dreams your work unlocks. Just one of the beacons that will shine out like a lighthouse across the ages and say - this is what humanity can achieve, when we work together, hand in hand.

God bless you for all you have done. God bless you for all you will do. And God bless the United States of America.

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