Latinos under-represented at all levels of federal employment

Friday - 2/17/2012, 12:51pm EST

Jorge Ponce, co-chair, Council of Federal EEO and Civil Rights Executives

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Employees think agencies are doing a ho-hum job of supporting diversity, according to a new analysis of the Federal Employee Viewpoint survey. The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service broke the data down by race. It found 63 percent of Asian feds think their agencies' policies and leaders promote a diverse workforce. Whites, Latinos and blacks were less positive.

"This is a problem that we have faced in the federal government for 42 years since President Nixon issued the 16-point plan on Hispanic employment back in 1970," said Jorge Ponce, co-chair of the Council of Federal EEO and Civil Rights Executives. He joined The Federal Drive with Tom Temin Friday to discuss what this data means about Latinos in the government.

Since the plan's enactment in 1970, the definition of diversity has expanded beyond just racial and ethnic groups.

"Regardless of whether you call Hispanics, Latinos, Spanish-speaking individuals, the challenge with the Hispanic under-representation has been with us since 1970, and it has grown by an anemic less than 1 percent annually," Ponce said, adding that Hispanics face unique challenges.

Latinos are under-represented across all job categories and levels of the government, all the way up to senior executive rank.

"While Latinos make up 8 percent of the federal workforce, for example," Ponce said, "at the senior level, where decisions are made and budgets are approved, they only represent 3.6 percent."

Comparing that number to the same figure from 2000 — 3.3 percent &mdash shows just how slow the growth in Latino employment is at the senior level.

"That is unacceptable," Ponce said. "Latinos also lack enough mentors to guide them to navigate the bureaucracy."

Latinos are represented in high numbers as interns. However, when it comes time to convert them to permanent jobs through student employment programs, few enter the federal workforce.

"The only other group that faces as many challenges as Latinos are persons with targeted disabilities," Ponce said.

Federal agencies have until March 16 to submit their agency-specific diversity and inclusion plan to the Office of Personnel Management. As a guide, the agencies are using the Government-Wide Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan issued by OPM.

Some agencies are already taking positive steps in promoting greater numbers of Latinos in the workplace. Ponce pointed to the Departments of Homeland Security and Treasury, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Social Security Administration and the Broadcasting Board of Governors as role models for other agencies seeking to increase Latino employment.

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