Rita Sampson joined INSA President Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg for a Tuesday morning Coffee & Conversation on February 23. Ms. Sampson serves as the IC's Chief of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity within the ODNI. The conversation began with an analysis of the relationship between diversity and security. Ms. Sampson stressed that diversity, equity, and inclusion make us safer. She defined diversity as ‘differences’ and argued that disparate backgrounds, perspectives, and capabilities enable the IC to solve difficult problems. In contrast, a homogenous workforce enables group think and exposes our vulnerabilities.
As the Chair of the EEOD Council, Ms. Sampson is tasked with initiating and integrating DEI programs across the IC. One such initiative is called “The Joint Strategy to Advance Equal Employment Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion within the United States Intelligence Community (PDF).” This framework consists of four pillars: promote people-centric leadership at all levels, strengthen compliance with laws and eliminate discriminatory behavior, leverage external partnerships to increase access to diverse talent, and invest in workplace readiness.
To promote workplace inclusion, Ms. Sampson’s team has created “The Small Steps to Inclusion Framework.” This initiative is also made up of four components, which are awareness of our biases, exposure and contact, action, and social accountability. Executives across the IC are taking these initiatives to heart and have expressed excitement about their potential.
Ms. Sampson also spoke about the need to demystify the security clearance process. Historically marginalized groups may still retain some misconceptions about the process. For instance, there is a lingering concern amongst the LGBTQ+ community that identifying as trans may be disqualifying. These types of myths must be refuted in order to hire and retain the necessary talent. At its foundation, trust will be a critical component in this mission.
The conversation ended with a description of recently implemented Executive Orders (EO). These EOs seek to combat workplace racial inequities, strengthen sexual orientation and identity protections, and confront xenophobia. Ms. Sampson noted that while morally just, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are also critical to the IC’s missions and to the security of this country.
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