Biden-Harris Administration Hosts Historic Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Federal Employee Leadership Development Conference
WHIAANHPI, OPM, and DOT partner to organize the federal government’s first and largest professional development event for AA and NHPI public servants in nearly a decade.
More than 1,000 employees from 100+ federal agencies register to join the hybrid convening.
WASHINGTON, DC – On May 23, 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration hosted a conference focused on supporting Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) federal employees and cultivating leaders within the federal government–marking the first time such an event has been held at this scale and by any administration since 2014.
The government-wide convening, held at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) headquarters in Washington, DC, drew hundreds of AA and NHPI public servants from across the country. Hundreds more tuned in virtually for select portions of the all-day program, which was organized by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI) in close partnership with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the DOT. Collectively, more than 1,000 employees representing over 100 federal agencies registered to attend the hybrid conference.
Through a fireside chat discussion and breakout sessions with Biden-Harris Administration leaders, attendees explored the most urgent challenges facing AA and NHPI public servants and celebrated AA and NHPI Heritage Month under the theme ‘Visible Together.’ The conference welcomed plenary speaker Michelle Kwan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to Belize, where she shared how she continues to exemplify leadership through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in her distinguished career in public service. Federal employees, OPM facilitators, and subject matter experts also discussed ways to foster career advancement, develop leadership skills, and strengthen the pipeline for AA and NHPIs at all levels of the federal workforce.
While three members of President Joe Biden’s historically diverse Cabinet are Asian American, and representation is evident throughout staffing at every level of the Administration–with 14 percent of candidates appointed or nominated to positions within the Biden-Harris Administration identifying as AA and NHPI as of December 2022—the story is different for the federal government’s civil service.
According to OPM demographic diversity data, Asian Americans made up 6.49 percent of the total federal workforce in Fiscal Year 2021, while Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) comprised 0.56 percent. Of federal employees at the Senior Executive Service (SES) level, just 4.68 percent were Asian American, and 0.16 percent were NHPI.
“OPM recognizes that with each unique perspective in our workforce, we are better prepared to meet the diverse needs of the American people,” said OPM Director Kiran Ahuja. “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander federal employees contribute every day to the vital work of the federal government and support its mission to serve the American people. We are proud to celebrate AA and NHPI Heritage Month and recognize the talents they bring to public service.”
“AA and NHPI participation across all levels of government allows our communities to have a seat at the table, and we are stronger when the federal workforce reflects the diversity of America,” said Krystal Ka‘ai, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. “This conference reaffirms the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to promoting government service, empowering AA and NHPIs, and attracting and retaining top talent, especially for the Senior Executive Service. Most importantly, we are ensuring that the contributions and humanity of AA and NHPI federal employees—whose work impacts millions of Americans and future generations—are seen and valued.”
President Biden re-established and reinvigorated WHIAANHPI in May 2021 through Executive Order 14031. The Initiative’s whole-of-government approach comprises a mandate to “foster the recruitment, career and leadership development, retention, advancement, and participation of AA and NHPI public servants at all levels of the Federal workforce.” Separately, the President signed Executive Order 14035 in July 2021 to create a government-wide initiative to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the federal government.
In January 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration released its first-ever national strategy to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities, which outlines commitments from dozens of agencies including all 15 executive departments in the President’s Cabinet. Various agencies including OPM and DOT identified addressing barriers to the hiring and promotion of AA and NHPI employees; strengthening Employee Resource Groups; forging partnerships with educational institutions that serve AA and NHPIs; and cultivating mentorship opportunities for aspiring AA and NHPI leaders as high-priority goals.
The May 23 conference builds upon WHIAANHPI’s previous partnership with OPM on webinars to help community members jumpstart their federal careers and encourage AA and NHPI students to apply to the Presidential Management Fellows Program, the federal government’s flagship leadership development program for advanced degree holders.
Earlier this month, the White House Forum on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, co-hosted by WHIAANHPI, featured a breakout convening with dedicated to promoting careers in the federal government, where agency and program representatives highlighted opportunities including AmeriCorps, U.S. Public Health Service, presidential appointments, and the Pathways internship program. In December 2022, WHIAANHPI also collaborated with the White House Fellows Foundation and Association to provide an overview of the 2023-24 White House Fellows Program.
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI), established by President Joseph Biden through Executive Order 14031, is charged with coordinating a whole-of-government agenda to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities.