The State Department has implemented several plans, activities, and initiatives to improve diversity and representation throughout the ranks of its workforce, but “longstanding diversity issues—for example, underrepresentation of racial or ethnic minorities and women in the senior ranks—persist at the agency,” GAO has said.
In a House subcommittee hearing, a witness noted that over 2002-2018, the proportion of racial or ethnic minority employees grew from 28 to 32 percent—including both the civil service and foreign service—even while the percentage of African Americans fell from 17 to 15 percent. However, it said the department has continuing issues with under-representation of Hispanics overall and under-representation of all minorities in the most senior levels—they constitute just 13 percent of the executive level in the civil service and 14 percent in the foreign service.
Over that time the percentage of women decreased from 44 to 43 percent, it added, while they account for just 38 percent of executives in the civil service and 32 percent in the foreign service.
GAO also found overall lower rates of promotions for women and minorities but cautioned that the differences are not statistically significant in some cases and do not necessarily mean there is a “causal relationship between demographic characteristics and promotion outcomes” because that “various unobservable factors” may be having an effect.
It said that “until State takes steps to explore such issues, it could be missing opportunities to investigate and remove barriers that impede members of some demographic groups from realizing their full potential.”