We have a new lady in Uncle Sam's Office of Personnel Management and one who has had several brushes with discrimination in the workplace. Her job as deputy director? To improve the federal agency's record on diversity hiring and promotions. While Chief Diversity Officers and the like have been sprouting across corporate America and universities in the past decade or so, the federal government has lagged behind, especially in hiring people with disabilities.
For example, since 1994, the percentage of people with disabilities in the federal workforce has dropped from 1.24% to an abysmal 0.97% in 2006, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The 2008 figure stands at 0.98%. So who is the wonder lady in charge of increasing these numbers? She is Christine Griffin, who uses a wheelchair, and in case you didn't notice, is a woman. Or a "twofer," a term she uses to describe herself (someone who fills two demographics) in an interview with , saying many of her opportunities at work came by because the companies, "particularly wanted a woman with a disability in their workplace."
A labor and employment lawyer by trade, Ms. Griffin is also a member of the EEOC, an Army veteran and former executive director of the Disability Law Center in Boston. Her challenges are huge. Besides people with disabilities, the Hispanic population in the federal workforce is also hugely underrepresented. She has been in her new position for three weeks now and already sees age-old skepticism at work. In her interview with the Post, she acknowledges a common misconception, saying, "Many agency officials regard that kind of activity as time-consuming work that doesn't rise to the top of their priority lists." Instead, it needs to be part of their strategic plan "to be the agency of choice for people who have the skills that I need," she says, adding, it's "getting off your butt and going out there and making people know that you really do want to cast that wide net and get people in the door."
Her timing is crucial as it coincides with the overhaul of the agency's hiring process criticized for its convoluted steps and faulty requirements. Let's hope her experience and determination creates a diverse and an atmosphere of equal opportunity at the many divisions of the federal government. Dare I say: It's time to break up the old boys' club!
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