State Department establishes chief officer in charge of diversity

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday announced the establishment of a position overseeing diversity and inclusion at the State Department, part of an effort by the Biden administration to improve the promotion and retention of racial and ethnic minorities in the civil and diplomatic corps.

“The State Department has the honor of representing the American people to the world. To do that well, we must recruit and retain a workforce that truly reflects America,” Blinken said in a statement. “Diversity and inclusion make us stronger, smarter, more creative, and more innovative. And our diversity gives us a significant competitive advantage on the world stage.”

The chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO) will establish diversity and inclusion policies across the department, establish practices for transparency on initiatives to increase diversity and hold senior leadership accountable, Blinken said.

The officer will report directly to the secretary, and each bureau will designate an existing Deputy Assistant Secretary to support diversity and inclusion efforts and serve on a “D&I Leadership Council” to achieve benchmarks on a “soon-to-be-released Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan,” the secretary said in his statement.

The announcement was welcomed by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who introduced legislation last year calling for the establishment of such a position in addition to other efforts to establish transparency and accountability measures on improving diversity.

“Congress needs to take immediate legislative action and make this position permanent,” he said in a statement. “By passing my legislation, the Diversity and Inclusion at the Department of State Act, Congress can and must codify the CDIO position into law, as we did for the Department of Defense earlier this year.”

The State Department has long been challenged by efforts to improve diversity among its ranks, with its staff overwhelmingly white and promotions for racial and ethnic minorities generally lower, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office published last year.

While there have been some gains of increasing diversity, they are unequal among ethnic and racial minorities and in the case of African Americans, have decreased, according to the report.

President Biden has often spoken of his commitment to promoting diversity within government as a key tenet of his administration and has appointed a number of women and ethnic minorities to Cabinet posts and senior level officials.

The president rescinded at the State Department on his second day in office an executive order by the former Trump administration on “combatting race and sex stereotyping” that was criticized as barring diversity training that examined systemic racism and implicit racial and gender bias.

And Blinken, during his confirmation hearing, said increasing diversity at the State Department would be the chief measurement of whether he succeeded or failed at the head of the agency.

Tags Antony Blinken Diversity inclusion Joaquin Castro Joe Biden State Department

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