To coin a well-known phrase, “We’ve come a long way.” However, TSA leaders acknowledge their effort to build a diverse and inclusive workforce at all levels of the agency is still a work in progress.
Over the last year, TSA has made it a top priority to take a hard look at the workplace, to make sure all employees are included.
During a keynote speech at the 2021 TSA Center for Accelerating Operational Efficiency (CAOE) Symposium, Stacey Fitzmaurice, senior official performing the duties of the Deputy Administrator, said, “We, at TSA, are very proud of the [diversity and inclusion] advances we’ve made, but we understand we are not at the end of the road. Much more work needs to be done. It will take all of us – our leaders, our employees, our partners working together to strengthen our inclusive work environment.”
In August 2020, TSA launched the Inclusion Action Committee (IAC), a coalition of diverse TSA leaders focused on measuring the current state of diversity and inclusion (D&I) at TSA and using their findings to ensure a diverse workforce at all levels and an inclusive work environment at all airports, field offices and headquarters offices.
An IAC survey revealed that 82% of employees believe it’s important to have diverse leadership at all levels; however, only 58% believe TSA’s current leadership reflects its diverse workforce.
Fitzmaurice said, “Even though you think you might have policies that are promoting transparency or equity and inclusion, when you really take a deeper look, you realize, ‘Gosh, maybe we don’t, and we need to think critically.’”
A new leadership principle will appear in the next edition of the Administrator’s Intent that reads, “Support and sustain an inclusive culture: recognize, value, and respect all individuals; actively seek to understand and advocate for all people in the workplace.”
Another plan in the works is creating TSA’s first diversity, equity and inclusion executive officer to head the agency’s D&I efforts and developing employee resource groups to network with each other.
“The diversity, equity and inclusion executive officer is going to pay dividends for our agency for years to come,” said Jose Bonilla, executive director of TSA’s Traveler Engagement Division and Inclusion Action Committee chair, “at the same time, looking at how we can resource and truly create a D&I network structure within the agency to measure whether the IAC action recommendations are moving the needle.”
Bonilla said it starts at the top.
“It starts with leadership for the organization and having the vision and passion to see this through,” he emphasized, but said kicking off this initiative itself “speaks loudly for how serious TSA’s top leadership is in enhancing our inclusive culture.”
Seena Foster, deputy assistant administrator for Civil Rights & Liberties, Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement, told symposium participants, “The further we move up in the organization in terms of leadership, the less diverse we become in terms of gender, race, national origin and disability, so this is one of the challenges we’re facing here at TSA.”
Foster said over the last year, hundreds of TSA executives have taken inclusive diversity for leadership training, and plans call for directors, supervisors and managers to have enhanced inclusive diversity metrics in their performance plans in fiscal year 2022.
“The commitment to diversity and inclusion without accountability is not going to work,” she said.
“I’m proud to say we are working together at all levels of the agency to take a hard look at our workplace and find the most meaningful ways to support and advance our dedicated employees who are critical to fulfilling our security mission,” Fitzmaurice noted. “We’re deeply committed to ensuring TSA is a fair and equitable organization built on trusted relationships, mutual respect, and strong, consistent communication between leaders and employees.
“We all have to depend on each other to accomplish the mission, and we can only be successful if we embrace TSA’s core value of respect and demonstrate that respect for all of our colleagues and their varied backgrounds.”