DS Diversity Working Group: Fostering Diversity through Inclusion
By Barbara Gleason, DS Public Affairs
A Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agent wanted to know whether he and others could wear attire that identifies them as Diplomatic Security (DS) law enforcement while marching in LGBTQ Pride parades. “Please share this email with other LGBTQ agents—tell them to wear their DS attire proudly because they are a part of this great agency,” said DSS Special Agent Christopher Gu, chair of the DS Diversity Working Group (DWG), in responding to the special agent’s email to the DWG mailbox (DSDiversity@state.gov).
“Our senior leadership encourages members of the DS family to attend events that gear toward fostering sensitivity, mutual respect, and inclusion,” Gu wrote to the DSS special agent, adding that since its inception in late 2014, the Diversity Working Group, under the direct involvement of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security and DSS Director Bill Miller, has been laying the foundation for the group to have a long-term, impactful presence in fostering its mission “to promote diversity and inclusiveness within DS.”
Diplomatic Security Service Director Bill Miller meets with the DS Diversity Working Group on August 24, 2016.
(U.S. Department of State photo)
Actions to recognize and promote diversity within DS were the main topics of discussion during the meeting of the DWG August, 24. The DWG is charged with advising and supporting the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of DS on matters pertaining to diversity recruitment and retention, cultivating an inclusive and tolerant working culture, and fostering diversity in the DS workforce.
During the meeting, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and DSS Director Bill Miller noted, “We want to foster inclusion—everyone having opportunity—everyone having that ability to rise as far as they desire. No glass ceiling. Period.”
“We must provide opportunities to be challenged and gain experience, offer appropriate mentorship and opportunities to the best and brightest,” said Miller, “with absolutely no thought to gender, sexual persuasion, ethnicity—whatever the affinity group is, whatever the concerns are, but also recognizing that people still have unconscious bias.” Miller added that a new training program is in the works that will be part of the development of a leadership continuum to help focus on breaking through those stumbling blocks.
During the meeting of the DS Diversity Working Group (DWG) on August 24, 2016, Chair Christopher Gu (center), Co-Chair Aiste Ray (right center), and DWG member, Patrick Mitchell (right) discuss ways for the group to have a long-term, impactful presence in promoting diversity and inclusiveness within DS. In the foreground is DWG member, Madeleine Wells. (U.S. Department of State photo)
During the meeting, Co-Chair Aiste Ray noted that, during the past one-and-a-half years, the DWG has been focusing on “putting in really good groundwork for the future work we are doing,” completing a historical analysis of previous DS diversity efforts, building a strong foundation for future efforts. She noted that, to date, the DWG has been meeting regularly, on at least a monthly basis, established a mission statement, created a SharePoint site, drafted a charter, and created three sub-committees that have been meeting regularly in addition to monthly DS DWG meetings. The three sub-committees, each charged with a unique mission, include: Strategic Planning and Advancing Diversity, Bureau Engagement, and Outreach and Recruitment.
Other initiatives include plans for:
- Quarterly open meetings of the DWG with a “virtual” online component to give DS staff outside of the D.C. metropolitan area the opportunity to participate;
- A newly revamped, interactive website with a “Get Involved” button to connect DS staff to opportunities to participate in outreach and inclusion activities; and
- A best practices white paper about successful diversity practices of other U.S. Department of State bureaus and other government agencies.
“I know all of us at some point have gone to our directorates and talked about the DWG. We are also beginning to see an uptick in diversity emails via DSDiversity@state.gov,” said Ray. “Our goal is to make the process more formalized—to make sure folks know they can come to anyone around this table and have those conversations that we can bring back to the group.”
Ray added that a DS Broadcast soon will go out to all employees with more detailed information about Diplomatic Security’s diversity efforts, and a listing of resources and opportunities for involvement.
DS Diversity Working Group (DWG) member Jorge Delfin (right) discusses the important role of outreach and recruiting, while DWG member, Celia Moorhead (left) looks on during the DWG meeting on August 24, 2016. (U.S. Department of State photo)
“Diversity is not just a hot button topic right now. You just can’t form a group, talk about it, do something about it, then forget about it and move on to something else,” said DWG member, Jorge Delfin. “Diversity has always been a part of the DS culture, and we need to continue to get that message out there. And the diversity group will not go away after those of us around the table leave—either from this working group or even DS. It will continue on.”
Delfin noted that outreach and recruiting is a major function of the group—especially sending participants to affinity workshops, such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE), and National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives ((NOBLE). “And we are working on collaborating and coordinating future events—including groups where DS has not had representation in the past,” said Delfin. He added that applicants who attend conferences do not have to be members of those organizations to participate.
“These conferences represent a great recruitment opportunity—but you can’t just recruit by being there,” said Director Miller. “You have to demonstrate to others your professionalism, the professionalism of our organization, and the variety of things we are involved in, so we can attract more people in our ranks that represent the diversity that we are seeking for our inclusive organization.”
Miller asked that the DWG develop a special DS Broadcast for all employees about opportunities to participate in DS outreach through national conferences, and include the requirement that each participant provide an after-action report about the training learned and how DS information was shared.
As the meeting concluded, Director Miller charged all DWG members with raising awareness of the work of the Diversity Working Group—individually reaching out to others, acting as a conduit for issues, giving advice, and helping to moderate discussions relating to the resolution of diversity-related issues.
“Please make sure that all of you take opportunities to speak at your directorate’s senior staff meetings,” said Miller. “Get that knowledge out there that you have representatives who can educate, help foster inclusiveness, and help others in developing that leadership culture of taking care of ourselves, taking care of our own, and accountability.”
The DWG is composed of volunteer representatives from each of the DS Directorates. Each member is committed to serving at least one year with a maximum two-year term.
“Thank you for all your hard work, for your attention, for volunteering,” said Miller. “We’re making progress.”
The DS Diversity Working Group (DWG) members who attended the August 24 meeting (left to right), Rael Ammon, Celia Moorhead, Alston Richardson (behind), Jorge Delfin, Leonard Colston (behind, by the flag), Madeleine Wells, DWG Co-Chair Aiste Ray (behind), Diplomatic Security Service Director Bill Miller, Special Assistant to the DSS Director Kevin Murphy, Beth Hanley, DWG Chair Christopher Gu, Patrick Mitchell, Scott Kim, and Steve Sexton, special agent in charge, DS Recruitment Team. (U.S. Department of State photo)