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Comparing Public Sector Diversity and Inclusion Program Design

Diversity and Inclusion management (D&I) is a new concept that is re-defining global perspectives on workplace and organizational science and a catalytic driver for humanity’s socio-cultural evolution.

Globalization has brought many spoils to the never-ending struggle that is equality to the workplace. Intuitively one can presume that diversity and inclusion, if not a direct result of globalization is somewhat related and affected by trends in globalization. That is because as humanity re-invents itself in the shape of a collective it must design small and large-scale systems to manage the complexity of difference among its individual counterparts. It is widely accepted that assimilation may not equate to acculturation and so diversity and inclusion management becomes the tool of choice.

In the public sector diversity and inclusion programs are still in the initial stage of maturity, but true advances have been made in the areas of diversity and inclusion management in the private sector. The tools of diversity and inclusion are common in both sectors and that the overall programs all contain common elements if they are to succeed.

I will give examples of both private and public programs that have been or are in use today by large organizations; with a concentration on organizations in the Unites States. Note that diversity and inclusion programs may differ under different local, regional, national and global environments because of both the base-line compliance issues and social and cultural challenges presented may be different under each environment.

Setting the Stage

Some important requirements must be noted before we enter into a discussion of Diversity and Inclusion in both private and public sectors because they carry strong relevancy of the design of diversity and inclusion programs:

  • It is illegal to discriminate in employment with regards to any “protected” category. Protected categories may include but are not limited to Race, Color, Gender, National Origin and Religion (Blanpain).
  • In addition to national statutory and common law governing the employment relationship, there are state and region-specific laws that can create additional laws above what is minimally required by national (federal) laws. For example, federal law does not provide employment rights protections for homosexuals but it is still illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in some states because of their own laws.
  • From a legal perspective private organizations that sell their services or products to the United States Federal Government are held to higher standards with regards to government mandated diversity initiatives. For example affirmative action programs aimed at United States veterans and minority groups including women are mandated by organizations that do business with the federal government in excess of a certain dollar amount ($50,000).

Now that we have presented a background on the importance of diversity and inclusion and the factors that affect it we should agree to terms that define what diversity.

Diversity is defined sometimes as broadly as the constituents it seeks to represents. Therefore, simple definitions may yield the best results to properly describe the word itself. It is important to define the term diversity because understanding the word helps us to understand the goal or objective of the programs themselves.

I want to use Cox’s definition which is: “Variation of social and cultural identities among people existing together in a defined employment or market setting.” This is a definition which is commonly accepted with variation in the language used. Another definition is simply the quality of being different or varied (Collins).  For purposes of this article we will assume Cox’s definition of diversity as it is more relevant to our discussion.

Public Sector Programs

Diversity and inclusion management programs in the public sector are very similar to their private counterparts. They concentrate on valuing leadership, equality, culture and social sensitivity.

Below is an example of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and how they do diversity and inclusion:


The Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management (OEODM), a staff office in the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health, is responsible for policy formulation, implementation, coordination, and management of the civil rights, equal opportunity, affirmative employment, and workforce diversity management programs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In this role, the OEODM serves as the NIH-wide focal point for:

  • Developing Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Diversity Management policies and programs for the NIH.
  • Providing leadership and guidance to the Institutes and Centers (ICs) on EEO and Diversity Management.
  • Assisting in assuring that all NIH policies, programs, functions, and activities are in compliance with Federal EEO statutes, laws, and regulations.
  • Developing and managing EEO, affirmative employment, and workforce diversity management programs.
  • Fostering an environment that respects the diversity of the entire workforce and provides opportunities for employees to contribute to fulfilling the NIH mission.
  • Improving the outreach, recruitment, and retention of minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.


Our vision is to protect the integrity of the Equal Employment Opportunity process and to make diversity a priority at the National Institutes of Health.

The OEODM vision statement clearly articulates its commitment to equal employment opportunity and diversity management in all aspects of employment at the NIH. Realizing this vision will result in an NIH that reflects the faces of the people we serve.

Source: Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management, NIH

Leadership in public sector enterprises that concentrate on diversity and inclusion initiatives is a key resource for achieving success. In the NIH’s goals creating and fostering a positive environment for leadership is also important. These are also considered to be strong and independent diversity and inclusion components, separate from compliance initiatives (see Cox for a better explanation).

However, it is clear from this one example that some institutions do combine compliance initiatives with diversity and inclusion initiatives. By combining both Equal Employment Opportunity compliance initiatives with diversity and inclusion public entities take on a firm view that they are one and the same.  Although statistically insignificant, five government agencies diversity mission were considered in the research of this article and none of them separated diversity and inclusion from compliance initiatives.

The tools in use in the design of the diversity and inclusion programs in the public sector were mainly in the form of recruitment and selection through affirmative action programs. For example, the Department of the Army and Navy assigned “quotas” to its recruiters to help them target minority individuals to meet compliance requirements as well as their own affirmative action program (See Wagner for a deeper explanation).

However, more recently large public employers have adopted a more comprehensive view of Diversity and Inclusion separating it from compliance. In 2006 and 2007 the department of the Army created a new department named the “Army Diversity Office” (ADO) within the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, Human Resources Policy Directorate under the leadership of an army colonel to concentrate diversity efforts in the department, and go beyond simple recruitment but also to include “retention”.

The inclusion of a centralized retention effort shows a shift in thought about diversity and inclusion in public sector entities beyond affirmative action programs that only concentrate on hiring minority groups, to an active attempt to retain them.

In addition to the centralization of their diversity effort the Army also established an internal Army Diversity Group [ADG] led by the ADO, that consists of key Army and Department of Defense (DOD) officials and “stakeholders”  with the task of “satisfying Army and Defense…workforce diversity requirements”.

Putting it all together from these recent initiatives, some public sector entities are taking on a more standard approach to diversity and inclusion that goes beyond the simple restructuring of an organization based on race and color, but are including some business-accepted principles while doing so.

However, tools such as succession planning, performance pay, acculturation methodologies, and workforce happiness as they relate to diversity and inclusion are not clearly understood from the examples that have been noted in the research for this paper.

Private Sector Programs

The private sector tends to be the leader in Diversity and Inclusion when compared to the public sector in this arena.

Let us take a case study example that is closely related to the one used above such as the department of the Army. Lockheed Martin provides an excellent example because of its similarity to a government entity (from an operations perspective,) and because it draws upon the same candidate pools that several large government agencies draw upon for its internal talent (Army, Navy, SpecOPS etc.)

See below Lockheed Martin’s Diversity program as described in their literature

Executive Diversity Council

The Executive Diversity Council, established in October 2001, is chaired by our President and Chief Executive Officer and includes a diverse group of respected leaders from across the corporation. The council’s mission is to advise and recommend strategic direction and policy to executive leadership to achieve Lockheed Martin’s diversity mission. The Executive Diversity Council is one tool of a long-term strategy that shows our commitment to an inclusive environment as a business imperative. The top leadership in the company is linking diversity to business objectives and ensuring the company values each individual’s contribution as integral to the bottom line.

Local Diversity Councils

Some 33 local Diversity Councils have formed to date at our operating units. Each council identifies its own charter to support business unit objectives while aligning with the overall corporate diversity mission. The councils report to the senior management of their respective locations. They sponsor programs and activities for the employee population to promote an inclusive environment. Councils will invite speakers in from the community, coordinate cultural heritage events and engage management in meaningful dialogue about inclusion.

Measuring Our Success – The Diversity Maturity Model

The Diversity Maturity Model (DMM) tracks our progress in building a more inclusive environment. It measures employee perceptions, business processes and the organizational climate. Through the DMM, we now have a common language, cohesive approach and uniform process to establish a road-map for progressing as an inclusive enterprise.

Diversity Training

In order to have an inclusive environment, people have to understand what it means. Our leaders play a key role in creating such an environment. Our Full Spectrum Leadership program is founded on principles of inclusion, diversity and respect. Our leaders are held accountable through mapping objectives to Full Spectrum Leadership, engaging in 360-degree assessments to get feedback from their employees and peer groups to help work development plans. Also, our leadership selection process and talent discussions focus on those who demonstrate Full Spectrum Leadership behaviors. Each year employees engage in diversity dialogues with their work groups around realistic scenarios to further their understanding in an environment of visible leadership support for the process.

Total Value

A career at Lockheed Martin is more than just a paycheck. We define our total value proposition as outstanding pay and benefits, an exciting and inclusive work environment, excellent opportunities for career development, and rewards and recognition for exceptional performance.

Work-Life Balance

Part of an inclusive environment is encouraging work/life balance with policies and programs that accommodate employees’ professional and personal needs. To reward employees for giving their time, energy and full commitment to the company, Lockheed Martin provides employees and their families with programs that enhance their well-being and support their personal commitments.

New Employee Orientation

The first step toward inclusion is feeling welcomed. An improved process for New Employee Orientation has been developed to do just that. The orientation is used at all business locations to welcome new employees and inform them of what to expect in their first few weeks and months at Lockheed Martin. It also provides supportive resources—from buddies to checklists—to help employees navigate through their initial experiences on the job.

Full Spectrum Leadership

Full Spectrum Leadership is a new concept that provides a set of “imperatives” for how we expect Lockheed Martin’s leaders to behave. It’s about getting results—and getting the best results in a culture of respect. We know that our employees look to leaders as role models. That’s why it’s so important that leaders demonstrate inclusive behavior, communicate our mission and educate their team about diversity and inclusion. This will help ensure that we are creating an environment when employees feel welcome, respected, and able to develop professionally.


Based on recently developed models of Diversity and Inclusion Programs this particular model goes far beyond affirmative action programs to include assessment, leadership, strong communication, training and education and constant re-adjustment of core diversity values.

It is a centralized model that includes the implementation of a diversity council and a diversity officer but with strong local representation.

Features of this successful diversity program include:

  • Leadership.
  • Education.
  • Measurement and Assessment of current conditions.
  • Alignment of Systems.
  • Follow-up on implemented initiatives.

This particular program exemplifies Taylor Cox’s model for a successful diversity and inclusion program because it contains all the elements of an inclusive program.

Work-life balance goes to improve employee morale and happiness and is an acculturate model for doing so.

Essentially what Lockheed is saying is that a tossed salad with intermingling pieces is the way to go rather than a melting pot where assimilation is the rule.

Local councils make sure that initiative that are to be implemented go through a local screening process that is sensitive to the needs of the local population as well as to assist in the gathering if D&I-relevant data and ideas, to be sent to senior leadership. Local councils act as the first point of contact for diversity issues and are consistently in touch with the local populations diversity beat.

An important key to this program however is that Lockheed’s program is separate from its Equal Employment Initiatives. Compliance does not equal Diversity is the message being sent. Lockheed mission is to use Diversity and Inclusion to gain a natural advantage in business and do the right thing.

Diversity is not a legal requirement, though it is sometimes mistaken for Affirmative Action or Equal Employment Opportunity” (Lockheed)

Final Remarks

The research body that currently exists for diversity is in need of major additions. Diversity and Inclusion is a developing area of study. One of the biggest I faced when writing this was to find original source materials for reference and to find original research backed by evidence. However, there are organizations who are taking the lead on developing this body of knowledge and they exist in the ranks of corporations such as Lockheed Martin.

This paper has shown through the use of two examples that the difference between public and private sector enterprises are not minimal in their implementation of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives. Although variations may exist in the maturity of individual entities of both the private and public sector, we have given the reader an example of two similar entities working in the same field with two extremely different ideas of what Diversity and Inclusion is. Although strides are being made in the public sector there is a long and hard road that must be traveled in order to achieve it.

About The Author
Dr. Joseph A.E. Shaheen
Computational Social Scientist with a twist of network science, social network analysis, data science, and random thoughts.
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