“The Intelligence Community should reflect the diverse makeup of America and demonstrate that we are fostering an environment where every professional can succeed,” said Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. “Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is fundamental to our democratic values and critical to meeting the IC’s mission. This takes work every single day. We are committed to doing more to address this critical issue and accelerate our progress.”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its annual report on diversity within the Intelligence Community last week. In the past year the number of minorities saw just a slight (half percent) increase while the number of women represented remained the same. Like companies across the country, demand is high for success in diversity, equity, and inclusion. But while great strides have been made, leaders emphasize there is more that needs to be done.
This week the Intelligence and National Security Alliance is helping to drive the DEI conversation forward with its program The New IC: Empowering Women and Engaging men. Across a week of conversations with industry and agency IC leaders, INSA is highlighting current efforts to attract and engage a diverse workforce and what steps can continue to be taken to move the needle of inclusion and accessibility to opportunity for the best talent.
Today’s panel focused specifically on DEI within the IC, with the conversation emphasizing the importance of culture and employment, beyond simply hitting hiring quotas.
“We all want to feel like we earned the positions, we earned our place,” said Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, founder, The Leadership Council for Women in National Security and first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, U.S. Department of State, during Monday’s panel of female trailblazers. “We worked hard to do that.”
CULTURE AND DIVERSITY SUCCESS IN INDUSTRY AND GOVERNMENT
Moderated by Chris Armstrong, owner of Veritas Culture and former Culture Executive at DIA and NGA, Tuesday’s discussion focused on DEI, access, and belonging. Having the ability to bring your whole self to work, engaging in active listening, creating safe spaces that potential employees want to enter into, and being able to ask questions were all key themes.
Panelists included the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at NSA, the Director of Human Development Directorate at NGA, the VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility from SAIC, the Department Head for Complex Systems Monitoring at Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory, and Senior Director, Inclusion, Diversity, and Giving at GDIT.
There were two efforts that proved successful for both government and industry.
Employee Resource Groups
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are employee-led entities that are formed based on shared bonds between participants or coming from similar backgrounds. ERG members create an encouraging, inclusive, work environment by actively contributing to the mission and values of an organization specific to inclusion, such as recruitment and retention.
This type of active, engaged allyship creates a common ground between colleagues sharing experiences. It allows colleagues sitting next to you who may be struggling to have a discussion beyond “how are you doing?”
Authentic ERG engagement has positive ripple effects leading to understanding and collective action, panelists agreed.
Bottom Up culture and Top Down Engagement
The bottom-up culture model for change considers employees as individuals, and seeks to improve the processes and the informal ways of the workplace. The bottom-up culture approach to DEI fosters psychological safety, because in a healthy company or agency, individuals should feel that they are able to share any ideas with leadership, or challenges to the way things are being done, panelists noted. At the same time, agencies and companies are also working to engage their leadership and ensure DEI priorities are also emphasized from the top. Liz Brooks, director of DEI for NSA noted that engaging the culture of the organization has been key.