PART ONE
INCREASING DIVERSITY IN ONR's WORK FORCE



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PART ONE INCREASING DIVERSITY IN ONR's WORK FORCE

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1 Introduction The Office of Naval Research has for 50 years been in the forefront of research and development in this country, especially in the physical sciences and engineering. Predating the National Science Foundation, ONR is one of the oldest federal agencies whose mission is to fund external research and development in support of national security needs. It continues today to be viewed as a premier R&D organization where the best science and engineering is identified, supported, and applied to meet national security requirements. In some regards, however, ONR's premier status may be in jeopardy. ONR, as a highly visible and powerful organization, is not drawing on the full range of scientific and technical talent available to administer its programs. As ONR leadership recognized in requesting this study, the agency has not yet created a diverse work force. ONR is not alone; many R&D organizations and federal agencies are struggling with this challenge. Private corporations especially have long understood that the effectiveness and success of any organization is only as good as its people, and that to become or remain a premier organization requires recruiting and retaining the very best people from a wide range of backgrounds. No one ethnic group or gender has a monopoly on scientific talent or potential. Thus, perpetuating homogeneity is intrinsically limiting. An R&D work force that, consciously or unconsciously, excludes entire sectors of the population cannot be competitive with one that embraces the best talents from all groups. In order to remain the premier R&D agency it has been, ONR must meet the challenge of diversity with the same commitment and determination with which it pursues new research endeavors. In building a diverse organization, ONR is far from being at a disadvantage. On the contrary, ONR is uniquely positioned to access highly qualified individuals throughout the entire U.S. research and development establishment. Through its broad responsibility of maintaining a window on R&D wherever it occurs, ONR has a potential knowledge base of candidate personnel that far exceeds most organizations both in the public and private sectors. ONR's access to universities and industry through an established network of over 5,000 principal investigators, and its ready access to R&D agencies of the government, provide it with means to identify the most capable female and minority scientists and engineers ranging

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from graduate students to established professionals at all levels. ONR to date has not capitalized on the potential of this intrinsic resource in evolving to a diverse work force. The Need For Diversity The rapidly changing human resources environment in the United States today portends significant changes in the talent pool from which ONR will develop its future work force. In particular, women and ethnic minorities are a growing component of the professional scientific community. It is, therefore, incumbent on ONR to establish effective mechanisms to recruit and retain personnel from these groups and to develop a climate that is conducive to integrating diverse employees into a more productive organization. In requesting a study, the leadership at ONR has recognized this need. But the intrinsic value of diversity to the vitality of a modem enterprise goes well beyond strictly demographic considerations. The confluence of disparate points of view, the clash of ideas, and the multiplicity of perspectives born of distinct cultural backgrounds, if managed well, can yield higher creativity and lead to greater innovation, both of which are critical to the conduct of science. Just as important as the utility of diversity is the need, in the committee's view, to overcome traditional, institutionalized practices that, whether intentional or not, serve to exclude individuals on the basis of ethnicity or gender. This country aspires to the principle of equality of opportunity, not only because of its inherent fairness, but also because the pursuit of that principle helps to ensure that the widest possible range of human talent is available for the nation's needs. The changing American demographics are well known. According to the National Science Foundation (1994), "[p]rofound changes are likely to occur in the composition of the U.S. population over the next half-century" (p. 11). Assuming population growth were to continue at the current projected rate, researchers at the Bureau of the Census estimate that the total non-Hispanic white proportion of the U.S. population would decline from 76 percent in 1990 to 53 percent in 2050. . .. [and] by 2012 more blacks than non-Hispanic whites would be added to the population each year. In 2030, the non-Hispanic white population would be less than half of the under-18 population... Over the following 20 years, American Indians, Asians and Pacific Islanders, Hispanics of all races, and blacks would together far outnumber the total white non-Hispanic population of elementary school children, high school students, and new entrants into college, the work force, and the military (NSF 1994, 11). African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians already comprise almost 40 percent of new births, one-quarter of the overall labor force, 28 percent of the college-age population, and nearly 5 percent of new Ph.D.s in the sciences and engineering. Women constitute more than 42 percent of the general full-time labor force, more than half of the undergraduate enrollment, and 30 percent of the new science and engineering Ph.D.s. From the

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point of view of demographics, diversity is a fact and should be a defining factor in the work force of any particular enterprise today. In addition, diversity offers practical benefits to employers and other organizations. Several studies have shown that, based on measures of performance such as creativity, quality of problem-solving, and effective decision-making, heterogeneous groups, if managed effectively, have significantly higher potential than homogeneous groups. In a brief but comprehensive review of research on the subject, Taylor Cox and Stacy Blake (1991) summarize the findings from a number of such studies. Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1983), for example, found that innovative companies consciously form heterogeneous teams which generate a broad spectrum of ideas and a range of approaches to problems, thus increasing the probability of novel solutions: Note that it is not just any team that aids innovation but a tradition of drawing members from a diversity of sources, a variety of areas. Innovating companies seem to deliberately create a "market-place of ideas," recognizing that a multiplicity of points of view need to be brought to bear on a problem. It is not the "caution of committees" that is sought—reducing risk by spreading responsibility—but the better idea that comes from a clash and an integration of perspectives (p. 167). Studies at the University of Michigan by Richard Hoffman and Norman Maier (1961) quantified the higher probability of superior problem solving from groups with diverse personality characteristics and gender. They found that "[h]eterogeneous groups produced a higher proportion of high quality solutions than did homogeneous groups to three of the four problems with quality components," and that "Mixed-Sex groups tended to produce higher quality solutions than did All-Male groups" (p. 407). Susan Jackson (1989) has also summarized research on the greater contribution of groups with diverse "personal attributes" to creative idea-generation and decision-making: Several reviews coveting research on this topic have reached the conclusion that heterogeneous groups are more likely than homogeneous groups to be creative and to reach high-quality decisions. . .. This finding holds for a variety of personal attributes, including personality... types of training... and attitudes. Studies of research scientists similarly have shown that groups with fluid membership are likely to be more creative... even when groups are initially interdisciplinary. When scientists or interdisciplinary teams worked closely together on a daily basis, within three years they were found to have become homogeneous in their perspectives and approach to solving problems (pp. 148-49). Examining diversity of opinion rather than personal characteristics, Charlan Nemeth (1986) conducted controlled experiments to test the contributions of majority and minority influence on group decision-making. In this context, "majority"

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refers to those in the group holding the prevailing view and "minority" to those holding a different view. Nemeth found that majorities foster convergence of attention, thought, and the number of alternatives considered. Minority viewpoints are important, not because they tend to prevail but because they stimulate divergent attention and thought. As a result, even when they are wrong they contribute to the detection of novel solutions and decisions that, on balance, are qualitatively better. The implications of this are considerable for creativity, problem solving, and decision making, both at the individual and group levels (p. 23). Nancy Adler (1986) reports on studies of cross-cultural groups at the University of California at Los Angeles, which demonstrated that "[m]ulticultural teams have the potential to become the most effective and productive teams in an organization" because their members contribute "more and better ideas." Such groups are "less likely to subconsciously limit their perspectives, ideas, conclusions, and decisions to that of the majority or group leadership'' (pp. 110-11). At the same time, diverse groups have the potential to become the least productive if not managed effectively. Mistrust, stereotyping, and poor communication can impede progress toward common goals. Adler goes on to talk about how to manage cultural diversity for maximum effectiveness. Cox and Blake (1991) also point out that diversity generates greater organizational flexibility: cultures and structures that are less standardized, more fluid, more agile, more adaptable. Organizations with these attributes, they point out, are essential in today's world and can react much more quickly to changes in the environment. Examples of the value of diversity in science and engineering abound. The influx of women into biomedical research has contributed substantially to understanding sexual differences in a wide range of diseases and health-related pathologies. The presence of women in anthropology, bringing new approaches to the study of social behavior in primates, led to major revisions in primatology. In physics, feminist thinking is making a contribution to the reassessment of competing philosophies, traditions, and priorities (Whitten 1996). In addition to internal benefits to an organization, diversity brings external ones. As non-whites increase, they will make up a growing fraction of the voting public. Consequently, successful results in congressional appropriations, the committee believes, will increasingly require credibility with legislators, not only on the basis of quality, quantity, and societal value of output, but also with respect to hiring practices, equal opportunity, and access to jobs at the agencies seeking funding. Those agencies perceived as closed, discriminatory, not reflective of the taxpayer and voter population, or not earnest in pursuing diversity will have an added burden in maintaining their funding. Mirroring the diversity of one's clients or customers, the committee believes, reaps benefits for governmental and commercial organizations alike. Ambassador Andrew Young, co-chairman of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Committee, offers an example of the political currency of diversity in the international arena. He compares the experience of his Atlanta committee with that of the Miami World

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Cup Committee. Miami, one of the most diverse cities in America and an initial favorite for the World Cup championship, formed a committee that was a subgroup of the Chamber of Commerce. All members were white males. The decision-makers on the International World Cup Committee were appalled at the lack of representation from the diverse population groups of Miami, and this is widely believed to have influenced the committee's decision to go elsewhere. Two-thirds of the Atlanta Olympic Committee, on the other hand, were women. Also represented were Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, and others—virtually every constituent of the Atlanta population. The 1996 Olympic Games brought substantial new revenue as well as immeasurable pride to the Atlanta community. Diversity is also important in recruiting new employees. Recruiting top scientific and engineering talent is fiercely competitive, and the attributes of the existing work force are of paramount importance in establishing a competitive position in hiring. The strongest candidates will be anxious to join a team of the highest caliber. Given that diversity is a critical ingredient in work force quality, an agency with a homogeneous work force, or one perceived as discriminatory, will find recruiting to be increasingly difficult. Even those white males with the highest qualifications may be reluctant to come to an artificially homogeneous organization which limits their opportunities to work on diverse teams and to acquire the skills that other employers require, including the experience necessary to become effective managers of a diverse population. The Current Environment The committee's consideration of diversity in the S&E work force at ONR must be placed in the context of the changing political and economic environment. The emphasis on working toward a balanced budget, together with the removal of the USSR as a military threat to the United States, have led to a significant downsizing of the nation's military forces. In this atmosphere, programs of every kind come under repeated scrutiny to see if they are necessary, and long-term investment frequently falls prey to immediate needs. Neither the Navy nor ONR has been immune to these forces. In addition, ONR has recently undergone a major reorganization. The Navy previously segregated basic research (6.1), applied research (6.2), and exploratory development (6.3) in separate organizational units: the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Office of Naval Technology (ONT), and the Office of Applied Technology (OAT). In 1994 these three units were joined into a single organization in which program officers manage an appropriately related mix of 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 funds. An intent of the merger was to relate the objectives of 6.1 research much more closely to perceived developmental requirements of the Navy expressed through 6.2 and 6.3 programs. It has had a separate effect, however, of bringing together individuals with disparate educational and work backgrounds who earlier managed either basic or applied research, but not both. The complexities raised by this reorganization provide an important overlay on the environment at ONR. The reduction in the size of military forces and the reorganization of ONR have also led to painful reductions in grade of a

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number of individuals at the senior executive level. The resultant personnel freezes, lack of growth, and uncertainty of the future tend not only to reduce turnover, with the consequent significant decrease in the opportunity to make changes in the composition of the entire organization, but also to increase the highly competitive struggle for diminishing program funds. Despite these current circumstances or perhaps because of them—the committee believes that increasing the diversity of ONR's work force is essential. An organization with fewer staff with more far-reaching responsibilities is especially in need of finding and keeping the best talent to ensure that it is operating efficiently and funding the most promising research and development efforts. Finding the best talent implies searching in the complete pool of qualified individuals of whatever gender or ethnicity and not limiting that search to the traditional white male population. The committee expects that both the quality and the diversity of the ONR work force will be increased through greater efforts in this direction. In addition, creating a healthy work climate will be equally important. Environments perceived as hostile or unsatisfying for particular groups have very real, quantifiable costs in personnel turnover, retraining, absenteeism, and lost productivity (Cox and Blake 1991). Training in making effective use of diversity will, therefore, be essential. Both managers and employees must be able to understand differences, build group cohesiveness, establish shared values, communicate across cultural and gender boundaries, and resolve conflicts. If ONR can inculcate these skills in a work force that truly reflects the increasing diversity of the nation's S&E work force, it will be well positioned to meet future challenges.