Workforce Diversity and Inclusion FAQ

These Frequently Asked Questions relate to Executive Order 12-02

What is the focus of the state's diversity program?

The purpose of Washington State’s diversity program is to proactively build a diverse, inclusive, and culturally competent workforce by eliminating barriers to growth and opportunity, allowing each employee to contribute his or her full measure of talent, and building our capacity to deliver innovative, effective, and culturally relevant services to all the people of Washington.

Where is the state's diversity program?

While the State HR Director serves as the Governor's Chief Diversity Officer, diversity and inclusion cannot be achieved in isolation. So instead of a unit or program within a state agency, the Office of the State HR Director (OSHRD) works collaboratively with the Department of Enterprise Services (DES), and state agencies through the State Diversity Council to develop policies and strategies to create a diverse, inclusive, and culturally competent workforce.

How does the state define diversity?

Diversity is the collective mixture of differences and similarities that includes, for example, individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, and behaviors. In addition to commonly accepted attributes such as race, gender, and religion, our diversity encompasses a wide range of attributes we bring to the workplace such as our personal and professional history that frame how we see the world, collaborate with colleagues and stakeholders, and serve citizens.

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to serving their agency and Washington’s citizens.

What are cultural competencies?

Cultural competencies are a congruent set of knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors that enable individuals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. It promotes respect and understanding of diverse cultures and social groups, and an appreciation of each individual’s unique attributes. Cultural competencies enable employees to respond to others in a manner that demonstrates an effort to understand subtle differences such as communication style, problem-solving, values, and conflict resolution styles.

For an example, see the DSHS Cultural Competency Model.

Why are diversity and inclusion relevant to government performance?

Diversity and inclusion efforts are about building the capacity of our workforce to serve the public. Today, private industry is making significant investments in workforce diversity and inclusion initiatives to improve the performance of teams, create new markets, and drive customer engagement. In the public sector, we face similar challenges. While public budgets and other resources have declined, the demands on our services have become more complex, requiring us to work across agencies, jurisdictions, and sectors in order to meet the needs of ever more diverse customers and stakeholders. The ability to respond to public demands with agility and insight is critical to our performance.

How has Affirmative Action changed in Washington State Government?

Executive Order 12-02 does not explicitly change any affirmative action requirements. It does direct the State HR Director to:

  • Establish streamlined agency, institution, and statewide workforce diversity reporting requirements;
  • Review, evaluate, and approve agency and institution workforce diversity plans, policies, and strategies; and
  • Develop and deliver an annual report to the Governor on the state’s progress towards creating a diverse, inclusive, and culturally competent workforce.

Didn't I-200 eliminate Affirmative Action?

Initiative 200, which passed in 1998, prohibited giving preference on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment and other areas. It did not preclude the state from analyzing and reporting the composition of the state workforce, or engaging in targeted outreach and recruitment.

Additionally, most of the tools that were in conflict with I-200 disappeared under personnel system reform with elimination of job registers and use of underutilized candidates listings, known as ‘+3’, and similar tools. Many agencies also have federal contracts that require them to develop plans for eliminating barriers to equal employment opportunity for persons from groups that have previously been excluded based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, and veterans status.