President Joe Biden signed an executive order Jan. 20 reversing a President Donald Trump order to restrict diversity training in the federal government that focuses on white privilege and race theory.
The initial Trump order mandated that all federal agencies stop conducting any training that included such “divisive” topics and submit all diversity training programs to the Office of Personnel Management for review and approval. Federal contractors would have also been prohibited from using such training programs for their employees, though that element of the orders were placed under injunction due to an ongoing lawsuit.
On the campaign trail, Biden directly refuted Trump claims that such diversity training was divisive, saying that such training was necessary for employees to understand the experiences of people who are not like them.
The order not only rescinded Trump’s diversity training restrictions but also mandated that government agencies actively promote diversity in their policy and services.
“By advancing equity across the federal government, we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone. For example, an analysis shows that closing racial gaps in wages, housing credit, lending opportunities, and access to higher education would amount to an additional $5 trillion in gross domestic product in the American economy over the next 5 years,” the order states.
“The federal government’s goal in advancing equity is to provide everyone with the opportunity to reach their full potential. Consistent with these aims, each agency must assess whether, and to what extent, its programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups.”
Federal agencies are required to coordinate with the Office of Management and Budget to assess whether there are barriers to traditionally underserved communities accessing their services, identify means to assess equity at each agency and to allocate agency resources in ways that promote fairness and diversity.
“President Joe Biden’s first day executive order requiring federal agencies to promote diversity, equity and inclusion as part of policymaking and workforce management holds the promise of breaking down barriers and providing new opportunities for countless Americans who have routinely faced both subtle and blatant discrimination,” said Partnership for Public Service President and CEO Max Stier in a statement.
“We also commend President Biden for revoking former President Donald Trump’s executive order that limited the ability of government agencies and contractors to implement diversity training for federal employees. The Partnership strongly believes that diversity, equity and inclusion training is critical to developing effective federal leadership and represents an important element in strengthening our government’s ability to effectively serve all Americans.”
In addition, the first executive order signed under the Biden administration places a mask and social distancing mandate on all federal property to address the COVID-19 pandemic. This order standardizes mask policy across federal workplaces, where previously such policies were left more at the discretion of individual agency leaders.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.