By Patricia H Kushlis
Shortly before the Easter weekend, the State Department quietly published a partial breakdown of 2015 diversity statistics on its website. This endeavor was apparently only done at the prodding of a senior Senator.
Except for data covering 2009, 2010 and 2011 Foreign Service promotions published in the State Department Magazine in June 2012, these are the only statistics broken down by ethnicity and gender that State has furnished publicly that we have seen in years.
And here they are – as minimal an amount of information as could be put out there and still satisfy the Congressional request. But did they and should they be enough to mollify Congress?
The data for 2009, 2010 and 2011, published in the June 2012 State Magazine (pp. 28-29) does provide promotion data for Foreign Service minorities and women for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011. But this data is not comparable with the 2015 data the department released just before Easter 2016 although both data sets show that white males continue to dominate the senior ranks of the Foreign Service. The Foreign Service results for 2009, 2010 and 2011 were summarized in one paragraph in the accompanying text which reads as follows:
Gender and Ethnicity/Race
"New for each generalist and specialist class, one snapshot depicts the number competed, number promoted and percentage competed by gender, and another shows these factors by ethnicity and race for the 2011, 2010 and 2009 promotion years. The 2011 overall promotion rate for all eligible generalists was 31.8 percent, or 29.1 percent for males and 36.8 percent for females. Broken down by ethnicity and race, that rate was 31.8 percent for Whites, 27 percent for African-Americans, 29.4 percent for Hispanics, 40.1 percent for Asians and 50 percent for Native Americans in 2011. The 2011 overall promotion rate for all eligible specialists was 17 percent, or 17 per cent for males and 17.2 percent for females. Broken down by ethnicity and race, that rate was 17.7 percent for Whites, 15.6 percent for African-Americans, 14.3 percent for Hispanics, 14.9 percent for Asians and 11.1 percent for Native Americans in 2011."
Not a pretty picture.
State should have been required to keep such statistics since at least 1972 if not before when it was legally required to open its ranks to women and minorities in the wake of the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and since the law requires the data to be publicly available, one would have expected to see a far more diverse and equitable workforce at all levels of the Foreign and the Civil Service some fifty years later. Wrong.
Lying with statistics – or at least covering-up the truth: decade after decade
The figures State has just reluctantly released are not comparable with those released in prior years except in the most general terms. Whether this is obfuscation or incompetency, you be the judge.
Here’s the problem: The 2009-11 statistics reported consist of the actual numbers of employees promoted at each grade level by cone (specialty) whereas the ones for the Foreign Service that most recently appeared on State’s website only depict percentages of the workforce broken down into three major all-encompassing categories (FS Generalist, FS Specialist and Senior Foreign Service).
In contrast, the figures reported for 2009-11 are far more specific. They also demonstrate far more vividly that an unexplained attrition of women and minorities has already set in by the mid-ranks.
Moreover and as statistically important, the data for 2015 includes no actual numbers for comparative purposes whereas the raw data is available for 2009-11. So how can one compare apples and oranges when, for example, the apples have been turned into apple sauce or are still in the deep freeze? Without such truly comparative figures, how can anyone determine whether State has, in fact, taken the federal government’s diversity mandate seriously? Or is that the idea?
But despite the lack of consistency that would drive a statistician mad, the overall picture remains the same. The Foreign Service remains a “white men’s club” and the higher the rank, the whiter and more male it is – year after year after year.