Women, minorities still held backWhile federal agencies...

Newswatch ... on federal workers

May 22, 1991|By Stacey Evers | Stacey Evers,States News Service

WASHINGTON — Women, minorities still held back

While federal agencies have made progress in diversifying their work forces, women and minorities are still underrepresented, especially in higher grades, government and union representatives have told a Senate committee.

"The glass ceiling is firmly in place and no single solution will enable women and minorities to break through it," said Jean M. Christiansen, president of Federally Employed Women, appearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee last week.

Christiansen was referring to the subtle discrimination in training, promotions and assignments that keeps women and minorities out of top positions in government.

Seventy percent of female federal employees are in the GS-01 to GS-07 grades, she said. Also, 85 percent of all clerical workers in the federal workplace are females, Christiansen said.

The percentage of senior executive service positions filled by women increased from 6.4 percent in 1982 to 10.3 percent in 1989, said Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chairman Evan J. Kemp Jr.

But, he said, "The glass ceiling faced by racial and ethnic minorities appears more difficult to crack."

Minorities employed by the federal government increased from about 25 percent of the work force in 1982 to more than 28 percent in 1989, Kemp said. During the same period, minorities who held senior executive service positions increased to 7.5 percent from 6.4 percent.

Discrimination shows up in the paycheck as well as in career opportunities, Christiansen said.

While males employed by the federal government in 1989 made an average salary of $34,430, females earned an average of $25,015 annually, Christiansen said.

In white-collar occupations, white males earned an average of $39,211, Asian males $37,217 and American Indian males the least, an average of $29,348, according to Office of Personnel Management figures.

White females in white-collar jobs earned an average of $26,637, a figure that was less than the $27,480 earned by Asian females but significantly more than the bottom spot, held by American Indian females, who earned an average of $21,949, OPM reported.

In blue-collar positions, salaries for males ranged from an average of $29,515 for Asians to $23,968 for blacks, according to OPM. For women, the range was $22,801 for whites to $19,465 for blacks.

While some of the differences are due to educational and experience factors, "a large part of the gender and racial difference in salary is directly the result of occupational segregation," Christiansen said.

To rectify the situation, Christiansen said the federal government must continue recruitment campaigns geared to attract women and minorities. Also, internal recruiting and career advancement opportunities must be maximized through upward mobility programs, such as OPM's Women's Executive Leadership Program.

A recent survey by the General Accounting Office showed that agencies have not been prompt about submitting "affirmative employment" plans to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said Bernard L. Ungar, director of Federal Human Resource Management Issues at GAO.

These programs are designed to eliminate the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the federal work force.

The GAO also found that the program outlines lacked detail, analysis, goals and objectives, Ungar said.

Twenty-nine of 35 agencies surveyed were late submitting their plans to EEOC for approval, with six waiting more than a year before turning them in, Ungar said.

The EEOC has taken steps to ensure timely compliance with reporting requirements in the future, Kemp said.

In addition to mailing letters to agencies that have failed to meet reporting deadlines, EEOC officials are reviewing plan submissions and developing specific standards for review and approval of future program proposals, he said.

The GAO has several EEOC reviews under way, including surveys of the Agency for International Development, the Peace Corps and the Resolution Trust Corp., Ungar said.

The agency also is analyzing information from OPM on female and minority representation and plans to issue shortly a separate report based on its findings, he said.

For its part, the EEOC has reorganized its division that handles federal sector issues, merging several offices to create a single point of contact for all inquiries, Kemp said.

Dates set for leave donors:

The Office of Personnel Management is firming up plans to establish a leave bank for federal workers who were called to active duty during the Persian Gulf war.

OPM will accept annual leave contributions from qualified donors from June 2 through July 13, says Constance B. Newman, director of OPM.

Each agency must report to OPM by June 24 the total number of all known potential leave recipients who have already returned to civilian positions as well as those still on active duty who are or would be eligible to receive contributions of annual leave under this program.

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