Federal Senior Executive Service (SES) paper


Introduction. 3

Background of SES. 3

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Problem: Scarce African American men and women SES. 4

Policy on SES. 5

Analysis of policy. 6

Theoretical framework. 7

Research Methodology: qualitative case study research. 8

Leadership theory: Critical Race Theory and Lack of Fit Theory. 9

Leadership style: Transformational Leadership. 9

Research question. 10

Population sample. 10

References. 1


The United States has aspired to be the land where opportunities are plenty and a place where other people are able to come with the hopes of better life and actually get it. It has aspired to provide equality in opportunity such that every child in the land can envision working their way to the pinnacle in the society. These aspects have made the US a melting pot thus attracting the best of brains, skills and experience from all over the world. Therefore, the resulting polyglot society is a great asset to the country since the diverse parts of the country create a better productive force that is far better than any of its parts. As such, it is imperative that as the nation becomes more diverse, the government also reflects diversity. The Center for American Progress projects that within the 21 century, the nation will have no obvious racial majority (Kohli et al., 2011). According to the US Census Bureau projections, the entire population of the nation will encompass about 54% people of colour by the year 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011).


Background of SES

Senior Executive Service (SES) was established in 1979 as a position classification akin to ranking system used in the US Armed Forces save for the fact that it is mainly concerned with position classification for the civil service. The origin of diversity demographics sprouts from the fact that the US has for long time attracted people of diverse racial origin and ethnicity since it is attached to the image of a land of equal opportunities and better life. This brand image has led to a collection of diverse pool of social resources in the capital hence bringing diverse cultural capital that is not only reflected in the entire population or demographic landscape but should also be mirrored in the various quarters where these social capital and capital are needed and applied.

Problem: Scarce African American men and women SES


Based on Congress findings of 2009, minorities comprised 22.5 per cent of the persons serving at the GS- 15 and GS- 14 ranks and 15.8 per cent of the SES in 2007. In addition, even though the number of SES members went up from 6,110 in the year 2000 to 6,555 in the year 2007, the proportion of African-American men in the SES reduced during the same period by point five percentage from 5.5% down to 5.0%. The same findings indicated that African-American employees represented about 6.1 per cent of employees at the Senior Pay levels alongside 17.8% of the permanent workforce in the Federal government in comparison to about 10.1% African-American employees in the civilian workforce in the 2007 fiscal year. From the data availed by the US Office of Personnel Management for the period lasting 2012 fiscal year, out of the 8,004 total SES members, the number of African men and women in SES were 829 and this represented 10.36% of the total number of SES members (Office of Personnel Management, 2013). As the figure below reveals, the proportion of African-American in SES in 2010 represented 9.3% of the total. This shows that the 2012 figure represented a growth of 1.06% over a period of two years.

Figure 1: 2010 SES Memberships by Race/Ethnicity

Policy on SES

The policy initiative on SES is to increase diversity in the Senior Executive Service so that the SES staff reflects diversity reflected across the nation as the number of people from various parts of the globe keeps changing thereby changing the racial and ethnic landscape of the nation. For proper socio-political balance, better management of social resources that have been pooled from various parts of the world, it is also imperative to have a balance in the representation in government bodies such as SES. This diversity should also include the gender factor. The graph below, which is adopted from Office of Personnel Management, shows the gender representation in the SES over the years extending from 2008 to 2012.

Figure 2:  Gender Representation

The graph shows that while the number of women members in the SES has been increasing slightly over the years, the number male members have sharply stood out as the majority.

Figure 3: Whites and Blacks in SES

The raw data for the above chart is given below:

Year 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
White 6530 6386 6477 6515 6444
African-American 625 687 752 794 829

Analysis of policy

As the number of African American men and women continues to grow in the general population, it is imperative that this change is also reflected in the SES membership. This approach is essential in ensuring that the SES reflects the diversity and the changing demographic landscape of the nation so that the nation lives to its spirit and objective of a land that provides equal opportunities that are democratically representative.

The Obama administration has been keen on the issue of diversity continually showing interest in improving representativeness of the various groups that form the population of the and this includes the African American men and women. With respect to the time frame within which the policy should last, the policy to balance the membership of SES so that the proportion of African American member SESs reflects the proportion in the entire population should be an endeavor that is taken on a going concern basis. Based on the statistical data from the US Census Bureau, the number of Blacks or African American men and women represented about 13.1% of the entire US population. In contrast, as already seen from the representation in the SES, African American men and women comprised 10.36% of the SES membership during the same fiscal year 2012 (US Census Bureau 2013). This reveals a shortage of about 2.64%. It is therefore proper to increase the number of African American men and women to make the SES reflect the picture in the entire population.

With the above revelation, there should a plan that puts a strong emphasis on enhancing the racial, gender and ethnic balance in the career SES to reflect the nation as it is at different times. Given the findings that have been presented in this policy analysis paper and drawn from federal government sources such as the Office of Personnel Management and the US Census Bureau, priority should be placed on addressing representation of African American men and women in the senior positions in the federal agencies.


Theoretical framework

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is used in this policy analysis as the main guiding framework. The CRT has various tenets that provide the pillars for supporting the study. The first is that the theory holds racism as an ordinary aspect and not an aberrational aspect the way society views business. Thus racism is viewed as an ordinary everyday experience of the diverse people in the society. Secondly, the CRT holds that the preponderance of white-over-colour ascendancy plays an important role with respect to materiality and psychic aspects of the society. Another tenet of the theory is that race and races are just outcomes of social thought and social relations but are not objective or inherent. Lastly, CRT views race and racialization as dynamic and called upon based on diverse factors such as paradigm shift in the needs of the labor market (Delgado et al 2006).


Research Methodology: qualitative case study research

The research approach to be used in this study is qualitative case study research. Research in management disciplines can be considered as exploratory and conclusive research designs, according to McKay and Marshall (2001). Where the investigator has to gather huge quantities of already available data, assimilate such information available from literature, exploratory research is most suitable, say Saunders et al (2006). The same author points out that an intuitive comprehension of the research subject is a basic necessity for any researcher which can be realized through exploratory research. The advantage of this research is that it helps the researcher gather and understand the actual situation pertaining to the research problem in hand and also develop intuitive understanding of the theories and industry standards and practices associated with the problem. The disadvantage is that the approach is too vast and cannot point to conclusive solutions or recommendations to the problem, according to Saunders et al. (2003). Therefore, this design alone will not be sufficient for any research to be very meaningful. That is why adding cases study on it boosts the validity of the outcome.

The above paragraph implies that the findings from the exploratory research need to be corroborated through much more deeper and pointed research to the specific research situation, which is possible through the conclusive research design, according to Susan (1994) and this design is more comprehensive and structured. Shenton (2004) argues that while exploratory research can help in the formulation of hypotheses, the conclusive research can help in testing these hypotheses to be valid or invalid.

Leadership theory: Critical Race Theory and Lack of Fit Theory

The leadership theory employed in this policy analysis is the Critical Race Theory and Lack of Fit Theory. According to Delgado et al (2006), Critical Race Theory:

“…It is a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up, but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, context, group- and self-interest, and even feelings and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.” –Delgado et al 2006, p. 1

Lack of Fit Theory is also important for the study and it shall basically provide a reference point for assessing the reasons for scarcity of African Americans in the SES.

Leadership style: Transformational Leadership

In order for the policy changes to be effective, there are some leadership challenges that have to be overcome. The right leadership qualities and style are needed in order to steer the policy changes to success.  With respect to this a leadership style that can propel the policy to success entails one that is flexible enough to accommodate dynamic nature of the demographic landscape, be able to deal with the sensitivity associated with racial and ethnic matters and have the ability to influence everyone toward accepting that the change is needed and necessary. Such is the quality of transformational leadership. A transformational leader will be able approach change with flexibility that is needed hence handle resistance properly.

Research question

This policy paper addresses three main questions. The first is the question of what causes scarcity of African American men and women in senior level federal government positions in the US. The Lack of Fit Theory is partly consulted to help in exploring the possible answers to the question. This question is essential in exploring and documenting the various factors that lead to discrepancy between the proportion of African Americans in the senior federal government positions and those in the general population. The second question is: how can the representation of African American men and women be increased in SES to reflect the proportion in the US population of African Americans? The second question is important because it will help in exploring the various approaches and alternatives and determine the optimal approaches to reach the desired objective without experiencing a boomerang effect. Lastly, another important question is what factors are essential for achieving the desired representation of African Americans in SES. Through, this last question, it becomes possible to assess the necessary system changers, leadership requirements among other factors that must be cultivated into the policy change efforts.

Population sample

The sample for the study is drawn from the Department of Health and Human Services and it mainly targets African American male and female member SES. Since the study takes a case study qualitative approach, the sample is a representative of the entire African American pool of workforce in the various departments. The sample is not only supposed to be compared against the rest of the departments but also to be compared with the general SES representation at the national levels.


Congress (2009) H.R. 2721 (111th): Senior Executive Service Diversity Assurance Act 111th Congress, 2009–2010. Text as of Jun 04, 2009 (Introduced). https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/111/hr2721/text

Delgado, R., Stefancic, J. & Harris, A. (2006) from Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. New York University Press. http://www.nyupress.org/19309chapt1.php

Kohli, J., Gans, J. & Hairston, J. (2011) A Better, More Diverse Senior Executive Service in 2050: More Representative Leadership Will Improve the Effectiveness and Efficiency of the Federal Government; Center for American Progress

McKay, J. & Marshall, P. (2001). The dual imperatives of action research. Information Technology and People, Vol.14, No.1, pp.48-59.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2006). Research Methods for Business Students, 3rd Ed. London: Prentice Hall. 0273709909, 9780273709909

Shenton, A.K. (2004). Strategies for ensuring trustworthiness in qualitative research projects. Education for Information, Vol.22, No.1, pp.63-75.

Susan, B. (1994). Research students’ early experiences with the literature review. Studies in Higher Education, Vol.19, No.2, pp.217-236.

U.S. Census Bureau, (2011) “More Working Women Than Men Have College Degrees, Census Bureau Reports,” News release, April 26, 2011, available at http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/education/cb11- 72.html.

U.S. Census Bureau, (2013) “USA Quick Facts from the US Census Bureau” http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html

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