Commentary | Aug. 10, 2021

Progress Report: How we are implementing the Diversity & Inclusion Action Plan 

By Cmdr. Carrie Wolfe, Acting Chief of the Coast Guard Office of Diversity & Inclusion

Addressing the nation’s tremendous maritime challenges requires a strong team. Our service’s pledge to increase diversity and improve inclusion ensures that we mobilize a workforce with a range of backgrounds, skills, and talent to meet the demands of our mission.  

Last year the Coast Guard implemented its Diversity & Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) 2019-2023 which establishes goals, strategies, and measures of success to produce meaningful and sustainable growth in order to build a more inclusive service. This multi-part plan establishes a foundation that helps our people to identify and mitigate biases, work together to nurture a sense of community, and continue to improve the culture of our service.  

The Coast Guard’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion (CG-127) is proud to report that the Coast Guard has made some great strides toward its diversity and inclusion journey over the last year. Below is a look of recent changes have been made. Let’s start with how working environments and relationships are improved every day in the field because of diversity and inclusion.  

Senior Advisor for Diversity & Inclusion 

To lead the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) program, the Commandant appointed Michelle Godfrey as the Coast Guard’s first acting Senior Advisor for D&I. Godfrey is a member of the Senior Executive Service reporting directly to the Commandant on matters of Diversity & Inclusion.  

Response to RAND Women’s Retention Study 

The RAND Women’s Retention Study and Holistic Analysis identified ways the Coast Guard could better support new parents and the challenges they face. This led to the implementation of reserve support for periods of parental, maternity convalescent, and primary caregiver leave.  Through this program, a qualified replacement is sought from reserve staff to provide support and minimize disruption to units while providing necessary caregiver leave for up to 120 days in duration. 

The RAND Women’s study also found that body composition standards disproportionately impacted woman at a rate three times higher than men. This led to the adoption of abdominal circumference as an additional body composition measurement, and the Boat Crew Physical Fitness Test pilot program is still going as it is being analyzed as an alternate compliance option. 

The service has also implemented new policies governing the investigative process and redefining the criteria and process for Anti-Harassment/Hate Incidents (AHHI) reporting and investigations. 

At the same time, the service has increased Sexual Assault Prevention, Response, and Recovery (SAPRR) training and bystander intervention training for field personnel. 

Mentoring Total Workforce Mentors 

The Coast Guard’s new Mentoring Program is helping the total workforce navigate their Coast Guard careers. The Coast Guard Mentoring Program has the capacity to improve recruitment, retention, advancement, and inclusion throughout the workforce. Close to 800 Coast Guard community members are participating in the program. The program is working to develop D&I competencies for mentors and identifying members of the workforce who have committed themselves to developing this important skillset. Increasing D&I acumen will help mentors and mentees make meaningful connections. 

Uniform updates including Hair, Tattoo, and Branding 

The Coast Guard has promulgated new hair standards that take into account a variety of hair textures, and increased hair bun bulk. Most recently, the service authorized ponytails and braids for women. These changes reduce headaches, hair breakage, dampness, and other issues caused by hair being placed in more restrictive hairstyles.  

The service has been expanding female maternity uniform options, including a new operational dress uniform (ODU) post-partum nursing undershirt.  

Thanks to feedback from the field, the service has gained a deeper understanding of how the tattoo and branding policy limited our ability to recruit and retain highly qualified members from a broad spectrum of backgrounds. The Coast Guard responded by implementing one of the most inclusive tattoo and branding policies in the military.   

These policy and administrative improvements allow our workforce to directly experience first-hand the service’s commitment to D&I.  

Recruiting  

To support officer and diverse recruiting, the Coast Guard has created a new officer recruiting branch, adding recruiters in Washington, D.C., Hampton Roads, Atlanta, Miami, and New Orleans to enhance the College Student Pre-Commissioning (CSPI) program.  

The Coast Guard also invested in technology to help us recruit remotely, in areas where the service doesn’t have in-person recruiters. the service has also implemented a Minority Serving Institution partnership program to engage college students of all backgrounds.  

What’s Underway 
 
We’ve been benchmarking where the Coast Guard stands as an organization through studies like the RAND Underrepresented Minorities (URM) Study. The study, which will be published later this summer, will accelerate our work by helping us sharpen our focus on advancement, retention and recruitment initiatives – leading to changes that will make a real difference for our current and future workforce.  

The Coast Guard is also committed to increasing the representation of women and minorities at all levels of the civilian workforce. CG-127 is finalizing a comprehensive outreach strategy to recruit a more diverse civilian workforce. 

Next, CG-12 is equipping units, teams and individuals in the field with tools to help them navigate how to be an advocate and ally for diverse individuals and communities around the Coast Guard. New tools are available for commands, supervisors and individuals, like the Commander’s D&I Action Field Guide and the Diversity Dialogues framework to support local discussions around D&I.  

We have more than 100 Diversity & Inclusion Education and Awareness Program (DIEAP) Change Agents who will provide D&I training, coaching, and support to unit leaders and Leadership Diversity Advisory Councils (LDACs). Later this summer, our change agents will start being available to coach commands through difficult workplace climate concerns.   

Additionally, the Coast Guard is using multiple avenues of listening and feedback for Diversity & Inclusion concerns. From the evolution of the Inclusive Leadership, Excellence, and Diversity (ILEAD) Council, alternatively co-chaired between DCO and PACAREA and DCMS and LANTAREA’s LDAC, this establishes a reporting structure from all the LIDACs across the service up to the Commandant to ensure strong feedback from the field on D&I issues. Coast Guard Affinity Groups are partnering under the Affinity Group Council to provide feedback on key D&I issues and support Coast Guard D&I programs.  

Listening & Learning  

The Office of Diversity & Inclusion (CG-127) is coordinating listening sessions to better inform future policies changes. The Office of Diversity & Inclusion recognizes this is the beginning of a continuous process.  Informed by research like the URM study in coordination with feedback from the field, our office is making specific commitments and holding ourselves accountable for progress. Once implemented, these improvements will have a positive impact for all CG members by increasing the efficiency of focused recruiting and addressing identified barriers and challenges to improve retention across the workforce. This way we ensure the Coast Guard’s D&I program is delivering for all of our active duty, reserve, civilian and auxiliary team members. 

If you’d like to know more about the Coast Guard’s D&I Program and the ways you can get involved visit: sharepoint site