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Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce: Executive Order 13583 and Demographic Trends

Erin L. Borry, Heather Getha-Taylor and Maja Husar Holmes
PAQ, Vol. 45 No. 4, 392-417 (2021)

President Obama’s 2011 Executive Order 13583 was expected to serve as a catalyst for a coordinated government-wide initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce. This order reinforced the government’s commitment to equal employment opportunity by “using the talents of all segments of society,” achieved by recruiting, hiring, promoting, and retaining a more diverse workforce. The order mandated the creation of a government-wide diversity and inclusion strategic plan as well as agency-specific plans. This study uses institutional theory as a lens to examine agency response to EO 13583 to articulate diversity and inclusion rationales, practices, and correlating workforce demographic trends. We examine how three federal agencies articulated diversity and inclusion practices and activities in the plans. We explore demographic workforce trends prior to, during, and after adoption of the agency diversity and inclusion plans. Together, these analyses offer evidence of varied approaches to diversity and inclusion as well as uneven progress in pursuing the letter and spirit of the order. Specifically, the articulation of agency-specific diversity goals following Executive Order 13583 does not consistently translate to enhanced workforce diversity.
Key Words: Diversity; Inclusion; Representative bureaucracy; Social equity; Institutional theory

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