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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 26, 2024

Coast Guard study will help mitigate unnecessary career barriers

By Catherine Solomon, Chief, Equity, Policy, & Compliance Division, Civil Rights Directorate

Black and Hispanic women may not be selected for promotions at the same rate as their counterparts. 

People with disabilities separate from the Coast Guard at higher rates compared to people without disabilities. 

And Hispanic, Black, and Asian males, as well as Native Hawaiian and American Indian females, among other Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) groups, are more represented at lower grades than at the GS-13 to Senior Executive Service (SES) levels. The Coast Guard discovered these inequities while doing a thorough examination of workforce data in a review known as a Barrier Analysis. This process helps to uncover any systemic issues causing racial, gender, disability, and other demographic discrepancies in the agency.   

Through these efforts, the Coast Guard is determined to identify anything that makes it difficult for employees to do their jobs effectively or to advance in their careers and to properly address them. 

Here are some of the other trends the team found during the initial data analysis: 

  • The SES corps currently lacks any persons with targeted disabilities (PWTD). PWTD refers to persons with specific disabilities or health conditions, such as developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, deafness, blindness, missing extremities, and more. To view a list of targeted disabilities, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website: 
  • Multiple EEO groups are separating from the Coast Guard’s permanent workforce, or those employees the Coast Guard hires for positions without an expiration date. 
  • People with disabilities separate at rates higher than people without disabilities.  
  • On average, many EEO groups get smaller Quality Step Increases (QSI) than the overall average. 
  • For multiple EEO groups, average award size of QSI was below the overall average.   
  • Several EEO groups are under-represented in mission-critical job areas – the occupations that significantly affect the Coast Guard’s core missions, like contracting and information technology. The gap is higher for senior positions (eg, GS-13 to GS-15). 

With these gaps identified, it’s important to recognize that not all factors contributing to such trends fall within the Coast Guard’s ability to address. Social, economic, and other external factors may play a significant role. However, where there are opportunities for the Coast Guard to create a culture of honor and respect for all employees – the service is committed to taking action.  

The Coast Guard, through the Civil Rights Directorate, has partnered with an external team of contractors who are experienced in workforce analysis to conduct a deeper, solution-driven study into these employment challenges. Workforce data can tell us a lot, but it is no substitute for real, lived experiences. It will take about two months for the research team to do voluntary focus groups with employees to discuss the Coast Guard’s workplace culture and other topics related to civilian employment.   

A sample size of Coast Guard civilian employees at all levels (including military members who supervise civilian employees) will receive invitations to participate in these focus groups directly via email. Employee confidentiality is safeguarded throughout these discussions. 

Through the focus groups, the team will pinpoint the potential barriers – anything that makes it difficult for members to do their jobs effectively or to advance in their careers. These barriers can include things like policies, procedures, practices, funding gaps, bias or discrimination, or communication problems. 

If the team identifies any systemic issues that disadvantage certain groups of people, the next steps will be to develop and execute a plan to eliminate those barriers. 

What’s Next? 

The research team anticipates that analyzing the data and developing mitigation strategies will take about seven months.  

Once the strategies have been developed, the plans will be implemented and continuously updated. The timeline for this is up to five years and requires monitoring throughout this duration to ensure success or identify any plans that don’t seem to be working.  

Even after the last step, the journey doesn't end there. A barrier analysis is an ongoing process and is a commitment to continuous improvement.  

By conducting this analysis and taking decisive action to address any identified barriers, the Coast Guard can foster an equitable and inclusive workplace where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.