Little Known Executive Order on Diversity & Inclusion: Obama’s Pragmatic Progressivism

Executive Order 13583 issued by President Obama in 2011 is perhaps one of the least-discussed and little known executive orders, despite its significant contribution to diversity and inclusion in the federal government. Lyndon Johnson’s Executive Order 11246 issued in 1965 was undoubtedly the watershed presidential Executive Order in the field of Affirmative Action for federal contractors. Now, nearly a half century later, President Obama’s Executive Order 13583 breaks new ground by setting the stage for progress in the field of diversity and inclusion in governmental agencies.

This forward-looking Executive Order directs executive departments and agencies of the federal government “to develop and implement a more comprehensive, integrated, and strategic focus on diversity and inclusion as a key component of their human resource strategies.” The alliance of HR strategies with diversity and inclusion is specifically designed to create “high-performing organizations for the 21st century” — workplaces that attract, develop, and retain diverse and talented employees.

The government-wide Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan issued following the Executive Order in 2011 articulates the business imperative for inclusion and has three specific goals:

1. Workforce Diversity. Recruit from a diverse, qualified group of potential applicants to secure a high-performing workforce drawn from all segments of American society.
2. Workplace Inclusion. Cultivate a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness to enable individuals to contribute to their full potential and further retention.
3. Sustainability. Develop structures and strategies to equip leaders with the ability to manage diversity, be accountable, measure results, refine approaches on the basis of such data, and institutionalize a culture of inclusion.

And the Executive Order called for federal agencies to develop a Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan within a 120-day time-frame that addresses recruiting, hiring, training, developing, promoting, and retaining a diverse workforce. Veronica Villalobos, the Office of Personnel Management’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, is responsible for designing and developing strategies to promote a diverse federal workforce. As a model for organizations seeking to implement more diverse workplace practices, the governmental plan articulates clear strategies, actions, and accountability structures that promote the attainment of inclusion.


  1. This is a bit off-topic, but your post makes me think of the Fisher case coming before SCOTUS. Do the justices of the Court, particularly the 5 conservatives, really believe we’re at a place in our national history where race no longs needs to be taken into account? Do they really believe that or are they just taking advantage of their privilege and status as members of the white male elite?

  2. Joe

    Hi, Blaque Swan, good questions. I think both are true. The conservatives have conned themselves and others into , at least for public profession, the view that ‘race’ no longer matters (much). And the four whites certainly are also accenting their role as the white male elite to decide what is ‘true’ about most anything. They rule, of course, undemocratically as the top legislating body in the US.

  3. I ask about SCOTUS because they get the facts and reports that most people aren’t aware exist. Do they just shred the research or something?

    You know, I’d almost feel better about things if they’d admit race does matter and they want it that way.

    :sigh: Oh, well . . .

    • Joe

      Oh, to be the proverbial fly on their wall:) At some level they know race/racism matters, but that colorblind white racist framing is so strong that at the everyday conscious level they and most whites (and folks like Thomas to some degree too) have conned themselves into thinking racism no longer matters much. The strong pro-white (e.g., whites are the most virtuous, civilized, etc, people) subfame at the center of the white racial frame has always inclined whites to not “see” racial oppression for what it really is. That is, they mostly see themselves as good people, virtuous, so how could they and their friends possibly be vicious racial oppressors, either directly or by collusion?

      Thanks again for your great comments on our site….

    • edna

      Joe, after the Executive Order was issued, federal agencies submitted plans within the 120-day window and then met in groups of three with the Office of Diversity to review their plans. Agency guidance was issued on how to construct the plans. The Office of Diversity is developing a dashboard and agencies have to report on their progress regularly. The Federal Viewpoints survey has indicators of inclusion to capture how employees feel about the federal workplace. These plans are quite aggressive; nonetheless, the real test will be in the implementation.

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