January 7, 1998 in Nation/World

Minorities Hit Glass Ceiling At Post Office Women Also Closed Off From Management Positions

Bill Mcallister Washington Post
 

The U.S. Postal Service has made significant progress diversifying its work force, but most women and minorities employed by the government’s largest civilian employer remain trapped by “a glass ceiling” that limits their promotions, consultants told the agency’s board Tuesday.

As a result, postal management remains the preserve of white males despite the agency’s decades of successfully recruiting minorities, Aguirre International said. The personnel study offered no conclusions for why women and minorities have been unable to progress beyond executive level 17, the point at which Aguirre said they appear blocked.

The report said that the lack of tracking by postal officials made it impossible to say why women and minorities had made little progress into the agency’s top management jobs.

The report was ordered by the Postal Service Board of Governors last year, several months after Board Chairman Tirso del Junco stirred controversy by charging that African-Americans were overrepresented in many postal jobs and Hispanics were seriously underrepresented.

Postal officials never disputed that, compared with the civilian labor force, blacks were overrepresented in postal jobs. But they rejected suggestions that the agency deliberately had denied jobs to Hispanics. The high number of blacks reflected the agency’s tradition of reaching out to that minority and their tradition of seeking postal jobs, agency officials said.

Del Junco said the report, released during a postal board meeting, had confirmed his basic assertions. It found that, while blacks represent 10.4 percent of the civilian labor force, they comprise 21.4 percent of the postal payroll. Hispanics represent 8.1 percent of civilian workers, but only 6.3 percent of postal workers.

Women were also found to be underrepresented among postal workers, amounting to 36 percent of the agency’s work force, compared to 45.7 percent of the civilian work force. The report suggested that the federal government’s veteran’s preference law may account for some of the agency’s failure to hire more women.

Whites comprise 66.2 percent of postal workers, compared to 78 percent of civilian workers.

What seemed to be most troubling to the agency’s board was the disclosure that the number and value of minority business contracts granted by postal officials has fallen in recent years. The consultants attributed the decline in part to the agency’s failure to enforce its own rules requiring contractors to subcontract some of their work to minorities, and also to the lack of clout postal diversity officers have within the agency.

The board directed postal managers to return in April with a new, tougher plan to increase the amount of contracts given to minorities.

“All we have to do is fund it and enforce it,” said postal governor David Fineman of Philadelphia, who voiced concern over the agency’s “policy of nonenforcement” toward minority contracting.

Commenting on the overall report, Legree Daniels of Harrisburg, Pa., the only African-American on the board, said, “We’re going to have to make sure that diversity has come to the Postal Service to stay.” The consultants applauded the agency’s newly created five-year plan to boost minority contracting. For the plan to work, however, management must make a stronger commitment to minority businesses and insist that the agency’s contractors make good on that commitment, the consultants said.

xxxx WHAT’S NEXT The Postal Service Board of Governors directed postal managers to return in April with a new, tougher plan to increase the amount of contracts given to minorities.


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