“Our diversity is not a source of weakness; it is a source of strength; it is a source of our success.” -Colin Powell
Programs that boost an inclusive environment build a more diverse workforce that characterizes the entirety of the US and it’s citizens, their values, and improves on national security policy for the future.
For this episode of ClearedCast, the editorial team was joined by Tony Frazier who is an executive at Maxar Technologies and sits on the board of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA). The discussion surrounded why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) is not only important, but why it is necessary and how we can get there.
WHY DOES DE&I MATTER?
An intelligence / defense community the is the same in thought, experience, or background can have some negative consequences. First off, it limits the US’ competence in understanding and responding to global challenges that affect the wellbeing of US citizens. A diverse workforce is better prepared to create policy to counter the threats of today: because the workforce actually represents the American people, their values, and different mindsets to combat those threats.
“In our world, you need diverse perspectives to bring innovative and creative solutions to mission,” says Frazier. He is no stranger to diversity of thought and its importance, coming from 20 years in the commercial industry to the intelligence community in the early 2010s.
“Diversity of background is important as well” he adds. Being a person of color and an African American executive, Tony has built on an understanding that while a lot of these missions are supporting the warfighter, there is a diverse set of stakeholders to support, with diversity of background to serve those stakeholders being the key for success.
HOW DO WE WORK TOWARD A MORE DIVERSE WORKFORCE?
Buy-in from leadership is one of the easiest ways to implement a program or gain traction on an initiative. The topic of diversity will require top-level leadership accountability, coupled with inclusion strategies as a national security priority when it comes to building teams and developing policies.
US agencies and industry should also coordinate outreach at women or minority focused groups, partner with these organizations for mentoring, and join networking groups aimed at being a more inclusive voice in the national security arena.
“We need to go where that talent is,” says Frazier. “Diversity and inclusion starts with understanding the current state of affairs and your current metrics around diversity within your workforce.” When it comes to Maxar’s DE&I strategies, they engage the workforce to see what is important to employees, understand what issues are at the forefront of their minds, and make a commitment or focus. For example, the focus or priority in diversity being how you build your talent pipeline: How do you drive outreach to recruit from diverse populations? What groups are you engaging with? What platforms are you a part of?
It’s also important for the future of national security that younger generations see this workforce and recognize people that may look like them, come from the same area as them, or be the same gender, so they feel that this is career field that is inclusive and a relatable place.
The US takes great pride in being a multicultural nation, a ‘melting pot’ if you will, but when the national security workforce doesn’t truly reflect that diversity, it diminishes those principles we’ve been touting.
But fear not, there are amazing groups working to tackle this dilemma.
INSA is putting on the Intelligence and National Security Summit, co-hosted by AFCEA this week. The annual conference is 100% virtual this year and will bring senior Intelligence Community leaders together to advance collaborative solutions to critical intelligence and national security challenges.
One of the important topics is diversity – in ideas, experience, cultural awareness, and the ability to affect critical thinking and judgement that reflect the nation. At one of their upcoming sessions at the summit, Diversity in the IC: Does Reality Match Aspiration?, panelists will talk about the IC’s successes and challenges in progressing towards its workforce ideals.
There’s still time to register and attend the Intel Summit – visit IntelSummit.org.
This episode of ClearedCast is sponsored by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the leading nonpartisan association for driving public-private partnerships to advance intelligence and national security priorities.