Why DOD's diversity problem can't be solved with numbers
- By Lauren C. Williams
- Aug 11, 2020
The Defense Department has been publicly grappling with the fallout from the police killing of George Floyd in May and the roiling nationwide protests that followed. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called it a "wakeup call" and signed several diversity initiatives and studies, including a new board to make recommendations, in June. But those might not mean as much without changing behaviors.
Janice Glover-Jones, the Defense Intelligence Agency's chief diversity, equality and inclusion officer, said that diversity has to be more than compliance, hitting numbers, but have an inclusivity focus on a behavior change within teams.
"Inclusion can no longer be an option, we have to get it to the point of default and a norm," Glover-Jones said during a virtual INSA event Aug. 11. "Diversity does not presuppose that you have a voice. You can be in a room and don't necessarily have a voice or your voice is not always, shall I say, appreciated in the room."
Glover-Jones, who formerly served as DIA's CIO, said organizational and societal approaches to diversity are narrowed to race, gender, and nationality and "limited to compliance and management of the numbers as it relates to minorities and even in some cases even the complaints process."
The solution, at least in part is to "promote inclusive behaviors", from collaboration to idea generation to decision-making, and "shift teams into having a fuller appreciation and a higher value on our similarities, as well as our differences, and bring that together to support the mission that we have," she said.
"There isn't sufficient emphasis on promoting overall inclusion," she said. That inclusivity also extends to "cognitive diversity" such as the ability to challenge or disrupt traditional methods to improve and support an agency's mission.
"We need diverse ideas to challenge the status quo, to break out from homogenized thinking and often linearized perspectives," she said. "We need to challenge some of our historical analytical patterns" to figure out what may be missing.
Glover-Jones' comments come as DOD confronts its own history of racial discrimination, with Esper banning displays of the Confederate flag on bases and in barracks. The military also just saw the elevation of Gen. Charles Brown, Jr. to serve as the first-ever black military service chief, taking the post of Air Force Chief of Staff.
Congress has also taken on these issues, targeting the renaming of military bases named after Confederate leaders and installing chief diversity officers in every military service in the proposed 2021 defense policy bill. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto that bill if it included language mandating the base renaming despite both chambers passing their version of the bill with a veto-proof majority.
This article first appeared on FCW, a Defense Systems partner site. Photo credit: Janice Glover-Jones, the Defense Intelligence Agency's chief diversity, equality and inclusion officer as seen in a Nov. 19, 2019 appearance on "Government Matters". (Image courtesy: Government Matters)
Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.
Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.
Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.
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