Implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices has been an important task for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and using technology to create a lasting outcome has been key to its Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) that is in charge of implementing DEIA policy that sit at the very top of the Biden administration’s priorities.

Speaking at the MerITocracy American Innovation Forum on July 21, OPM DEIA Director Dr. Janice Underwood spoke about how the Federal government must reject the notion that DEIA is “just nice to have” if it wants to have a high-performing workforce.

“Well, my first charge to you is for you to reject – yes, you heard me correctly – reject the notion that DEIA work is just nice to have or a feel-good sort of moral imperative,” said Underwood. “Instead, there’s a return on investment, or ROI, for DEIA best practices that are linked with a business imperative and national security imperative.”

Underwood said the government must go beyond programs and special holiday observances when it comes to being inclusive. Rather, she said, government must make equity visible in the workplace and society, so that we all can see it and change it.

“I always say ‘you can’t change what you don’t measure and you won’t measure that which you don’t acknowledge,’” said Underwood. “So, we need to start acknowledging some of these DEIA issues. The most important thing we can do to unleash the power of our diversity is to shine a light on those historical inequities and the contemporary manifestations of them, and then use DEIA from that business perspective.”

Underwood emphasized that technology has been a key driver in delivering DEIA information and best practices governmentwide.

“Technology can either be an enabler of equity, or inequity,” Underwood said. “It’s an excellent tool that bridges socioeconomic gaps and can dismantle barriers to resources, if it’s fully accessible, if it’s available, and it’s affordable.”

And technology, she said, must be equitably, strategically, and sustainably integrated into the Federal infrastructure, and must also be used to help inform OPM’s ongoing DEIA efforts.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.