This working group is on a mission to expand and strengthen the diversity of NOAA’s workforce

NOAA’s Diversity and Professional Advancement Working Group (DPA WG) was created in  2014 by 14 scientists, analysts, and equal employment opportunity experts across multiple line and staff offices who were passionate about creating a more diverse and inclusive NOAA workforce. Since then, DPA WG and its members have received numerous awards — including being recognized as the fifth-best employee resource group offsite link (ERG) in the nation at the 2021 Diversity Impact Awards presented by The Global ERG network — for their efforts in addressing barriers that underrepresented groups within NOAA face.

Eleven people pose for a photo holding award plaques.

The Diversity and Professional Advancement Working Group received the 2016 Administrator's Award for their contributions to diversity efforts at NOAA. (Image credit: NOAA)

DPA WG’s three mission areas are recruitment, retention, and advancement. 


1. Hosting networking sessions for NOAA undergraduate scholars. 

DPA WG has created opportunities to help NOAA increase retention and advancement of student interns and scholars who may join the NOAA workforce. They provided career development resources to students from underrepresented communities and hosted networking sessions for 25 Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program and José E. Serrano Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions. In addition, students connected with NOAA staff to grow their professional network and build mentor/mentee relationships. 

2. Helping coordinate NOAA’s presence at important scientific conferences. 

DPA WG participated in multiple scientific conferences, including the 2021 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference. DPA WG promoted NOAA science and careers while performing targeted recruitment for NOAA’s student and educational opportunities. This cross-NOAA participation helped to broaden engagement with diverse STEM audiences at SACNAS and other scientific conferences. 


3. Sharing diverse voices from across NOAA through an internal podcast and blog. 

When the working group first formed, most members knew each other because they were based at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Now, with more than 60 members across the country, it was no longer guaranteed that everyone would know each other. DPA WG created a blog and a podcast for members to share their stories with others and to cultivate connections among members. In June 2020, DPA WG created the “20% Podcast” offsite link for members to share their stories with others, and 12 episodes with 14 DPA WG members have been released so far. NOAA leadership asked the group to produce several episodes as part of the first “We Are NOAA Week” to raise awareness of key NOAA-wide diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and climate justice initiatives. DPA WG co-chair, Vankita Brown, said that these platforms “... really allow members to have a conversation about their journey to NOAA and within NOAA.” 


4. Creating and piloting a tool for diverse hiring panels. 

To enhance the interview process and mitigate bias, DPA WG began developing a TOol foR Diverse IntERview PanelS (ORDERS) in 2013. ORDERS is a database of diverse individuals who can be chosen to serve on hiring panels. The tool is currently being piloted in the National Environmental Satellite Data, and Information Service, and its use is being encouraged throughout NOAA. In addition, DPA WG has been working with another ERG, Latinos@NOAA, to train people who sit on hiring panels to further advance hiring efforts. 

5. Retooling NOAA’s Leadership Competencies Development Program. 

Most recently, NOAA leadership adopted all recommendations DPA WG made to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Leadership Competencies Development Program (LCDP). LCDP is a competitive, 18-month program that provides a series of training and developmental experiences to a cadre of NOAA employees who have high potential for assuming leadership responsibilities. Due to the DPA WG’s work, LCDP is now more inclusive than ever and will incorporate more diverse staff and leadership topics than in previous program cohorts. 

Diversity Impact Awards banner
In 2021, NOAA's Diversity and Professional Advancement Working Group was recognized as the fifth-best employee resource group in the nation at the 2021 Diversity Impact Awards presented by The Global ERG Network. (The Global ERG Network)

For these ongoing efforts related to LCDP, DPA WG was recognized as the fifth-best ERG offsite link across both public and private sectors at the 2021 Diversity Impact Awards by the Global ERG Network. The award highlights the work of ERGs across the country and brings more visibility to DPA WG. 

“We are not mandated to do this work. We do it because we’re passionate, and we love it. This is an example of what happens when you have this diverse group of people, not just by ethnicity, but by profession as well,” said Vankita.