Achieving a Representative Federal Work Force: Addressing the Barriers to Hispanic Participation


True or untrue?  The federal work force is a more diverse than that of the private sector.  Untrue.  When it comes to the Hispanic/Latino community, the federal government hasn’t done as good a job as it needs to in reaching everyone.  Altruism aside, you can do things in the federal government you can’t do anywhere else. You are given opportunities to make a difference, as well as to gain an experience base that makes you more marketable.  Many say that the White House cannot be won without the help of the Hispanic vote.  However, selecting officials can become quite imaginative for not selecting Hispanics. 

The most important thing that can be done to address this challenge is to look at it as a Hispanic challenge and not as a diversity challenge.  Underrepresentedness of Hispanics in the Federal Workforce is inconsistent with the stator goal of a workforce representative of all segments of society.  Further, the Federal Government, as the Nation’s largest employer and enforcer of laws, has a special obligation to be fair and inclusive in all its employment practice.  Therefore, if the Government is to employment practices.  Therefore, if the Government is to employ Hispanic men and women in the same proportions as they participate in the civilian labor force within any reasonable time frame, we must reconsider past approaches to meeting this goal.

Only some of the obstacles to achieving the goal of full representation of Hispanics in the Federal workforce are within the control of Federal managers.  Actions to address the obstacles that are within their control, therefore, must be aggressively pursued. Federal agencies, for example, must remain vigilant in aggressively identifying and eliminating instances of discriminatory treatment of Hispanics which constitute illegal prohibited personnel practices.  I recommend that federal departments and agencies should establish entry-level positions in principal agency occupations at locations with large Hispanic populations in order to increase the Hispanic populations in order to increase the Hispanic applicant pool from which candidates for employment are drawn.  Increasing the number of Hispanic managers in order to provide more mentors for Hispanic employees within the agency and a greater connection with Hispanic communities.  Emphasizing the importance of senior-level leadership in efforts to achieve a fully diverse workforce so that line managers, in turn, are motivated to pursue the goal of full representation of Hispanics in the workforce is what needs to be pushed for.  Federal departments and agencies should assure that their managers and supervisors have comprehensive and accurate information about the current representation of ethnic and minority group and are committed to doing their part towards achieving the statutory goal of full representation.  Because Hispanics remain the only significantly underrepresented minority group in the Federal workforce and the obstacles to full Hispanic representation are particularly severe, therefore, agencies should devote a greater proportion of their recruitment resources to hiring well-qualified Hispanic men and women. 

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In four years, from 2008 through 2011, the representation of Hispanics in the federal workforce increased by a mere 0.1 percent and currently stands at 8.1 percent, while the representation of Hispanics in the Civilian Labor Force increased from 13.2 percent in 2008 to 13.6 percent in 2011.[i]  The lack of progress can attributed to the lack of com  The persistent underrepresentation of Hispanics/Latinos in all aspects that comprise the federal policy-making process engenders concern for public administration practitioners and academics, as well as, the broader Hispanics/Latinos community.  The most relevant concern is how Hispanics/Latinos adequately represent their values and interests at the Federal domestic policy level if they continue to prevail as an absent minority within the American bureaucracy.  As we explore the effect of social experiences on decision-making behaviors among Hispanics/Latinos in the senior Executive Service (SES) we find that in an effort to reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent, Governor Romney of Massachusetts is targeting working people in order to provide even greater tax cuts to our nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations.  With many agencies already lacking the necessary staffing and resources, cutting the federal workforce would undermine the services the American people depend on and want.  According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OP) Tenth Annual Report on Hispanic Employment in the Federal Government, Hispanics were 14.8 percent of the national civilian labor force in FY 2010 and 8.0 percent of the permanent Federal workforce.  The FY 2012 workforce participation rate for Hispanics in VA was 6.73 percent.  Hispanic males had a net change of 1.93 percent and Hispanic females had a net change of 2.60 percent in FY 2012, compared to a net change of 2.78 percent for the permanent VA workforce.[ii]



Description: Graph of Labor Force Participation Rate - Hispanic or Latino


We cannot also forget that the largest proportions of Latinos are in the following states:

Table 2. Impact of Sequestration on Job Training Services in States with the Largest Proportions of Latinos


Percent of Population That Is Hispanic, 2010

Effect on Funding for Employment and Training Services in 2013

Number of Fewer People Served

New Mexico

























New Jersey

New York















Source:  The White House State-by-State Reports on the Impact of March 1st Cuts on Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security (Washington DC: The White House, February 24, 2013), (accessed February 26, 2013). 


But why do we need to hold onto the numbers?  I believe that we must revert back to Executive Order 13583 Establishing a Coordinated Government-wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce by President Obama in 2011.  President took an agency wide approach meaning, all agencies shall implement the Government-wide Plan prepared pursuant to section 2 of the order. And such other related guidance as issued from time to time by the Director of OPM and Deputy Director for Management of OBM.  In fact, Republican Mitt money suggested in 2012 that he would reduce the federal government workforce if he won the election and voiced regret that union protection would prevent him from cutting more deeply but we cannot take him to this since his presidential run fell short.  I also believe that federal government was not unionized so that federal workers could have been allowed to go a lot deeper than you are actually allowed to go.  And will be Hispanic federal workers Achilles heel. Promises make in the heat of politics.

The complexity in hired federal workers is a relative one.  Relative to NARA’s supervisory/non-supervisory and executive level workforce, minorities and women are most underrepresented within the supervisory and executive level position.  Under 5 U.S.C. 7201 (b), “It is the policy of the United States to insure equal employment opportunities for employees without discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”  Further, as outlined in Executive Order 13171, “The head of each executive department and agency (agency) shall establish and maintain a program for the recruitment and career development of Hispanics/Latinos in Federal government.” Specifically, 5 CFR 720.205 requires each agency to “have an up-to-date equal opportunity recruitment program plan covering recruitment of positions at various organizational levels and geographic locations within the agency.”

Just looking at it from a business case scenario, with the growth of the Hispanic population, the retirement of federal employees and the government’s charge to serve the people it represents, one would see the absolute necessity to have that representation.  Agencies with a bilingual necessity, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DS0, which oversees immigration, customs and border protection departments, have seen the most growth.  But is that enough?  Many Hispanics currently working for the government, or for contractors and nonprofits associated with the government, say they are pleased to be giving back to the country and to their communities. 

Federal agencies, which are among the largest employers in the country, employ workers who have widely differing backgrounds and skills to fill a variety of governmental roles.  We need to look at the characteristics of the full-time permanent Hispanic federal civilian workforce and changes over time.  One way to gauge how the full-time permanent federal civilian workforce is changing is to look at the attributes of workers who have recently left federal service, either voluntarily because they retired or resigned or involuntarily.  There is a common view that the federal government is a monolithic employer with a standard pay schedule and hiring rules.  However, the current laws, executive orders, and regulations that govern federal employment grant federal agencies considerable latitude in hiring and setting pay.

The federal government has experimented with different ways of determining pay and hiring workers over the past five years.  The bottom line is that government does not always send money wisely.  We should be able to achieve the needed savings and keep our dedicated federal workforce going strong, without devastating furloughs and misrepresentation of Hispanics in federal government. 

[i] The Council of Federal EEO and Civil Rights Executives.  2012.

[ii] HEP Strategic Plan.  Diversity VA Government Programs.  2013.


 The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.

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