By Derrick Johnson
and Michele Ruiz
Earlier this Summer, President Biden issued a sweeping Executive Order, which advances diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility or “DEI&A” initiatives throughout the federal government. With a stroke of the pen, Biden has positively impacted practically every area of federal employment, including hiring policies, training, leadership development, and employee pay and benefits.
As leaders in the civil rights and business community who prioritize DEI&A, we applaud the President for taking this next step to address unconscious bias and attract, develop, and support a federal workforce that truly represents our nation.
By issuing the order, Biden is directing each agency head to “…take steps to implement or increase the availability and use of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility training programs for employees, managers, and leadership.”
DEI&A initiatives and training make governments, businesses, and organizations stronger. Surveys show that 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities. Sixty-one percent of employees believe diversity and inclusion strategies are beneficial and essential. If the federal government wants to attract and retain the best talent, it needs DEI&A training and programs with all deliberate speed.
Bias in policymaking—whether systemic or unconscious—has historically resulted in adverse outcomes for communities of color and other marginalized groups. From immigration legislation to healthcare policy to education, programs need to be designed and implemented with an eye toward how they will affect all citizens, regardless of their race or economic circumstances. According to the White House, overcoming bias in public policy around wages, housing credit, lending, and access to higher education could amount to an additional $5 trillion in gross domestic product in the American economy over the next five years.
Unconscious bias experts cite, and numerous studies demonstrate that not addressing unconscious bias leads to high turnover, low morale, less innovation, increased legal risk, and less effective teams. Without question, making federal service more accessible and fairer to diverse groups is the right thing to do; it is also better for our economy and our democracy. Fact is a diverse, inclusive, creative, and productive federal workforce best reflects the face of the nation at home and abroad. Whether trying to devise solutions to fix the housing crisis or ensure access to broadband technology, it also ensures a range of unique perspectives is incorporated into innovative and public-focused services and solutions the government provides to the American people.
Similar conclusions can be made in the private sector. In 2017 Harvard Business Review/University of Chicago study estimated that corporate employee disengagement and alienation cost companies between $450 and $550 billion per year. That is why many corporate leaders prioritize best-in-class, science-based anti-bias training from the C-Suite to entry-level employees.
If America is going to continue to lead the world by the power of our ideas, as President Biden has said, we must go a step further and lead by the power of our example. Our nation deserves nothing less.
Derrick Johnson is President and CEO of the NAACP and Michele Ruiz is Co-Founder and CEO of BiasSync.