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FCC Introduces Plan to Increase Staff Diversity

The new Early Career Staff Diversity Initiative seeks to diversify talent among commission staff

Increasing staff diversity is a priority for leaders of the Federal Communications Commission. That resolution led to the creation of the Early Career Staff Diversity Initiative, a joint effort by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks to advance equitable opportunities for underrepresented undergraduate, graduate and law school students.

During the commission’s monthly meetings, FCC commissioners regularly welcome a cadre of college-age students as interns to the FCC, where an internship offers valuable real-world experience, industry connections and often leads to employment in the communications sector. For the last several years, however, the commission has only offered voluntary, unpaid internships. According to the commission, otherwise-qualified students may not have the opportunity to pursue these opportunities, including students from underrepresented communities.

[Read: NAB Foundation Launches Diversity Resource]

Since the communications sector impacts every American’s ability to access affordable and reliable communications, the FCC said, its employees should reflect the nation’s diversity. As a result the Early Career Staff Diversity Initiative laid out the following new components:

  • Starting in January, 2021, the FCC will provide a select number of paid internships to law, graduate or undergraduate students each semester and summer. These internships should create opportunities for students who may otherwise be financially unable to participate in unpaid internships at the FCC.
  • The FCC will invest additional resources to recruit students from historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions to increase the diversity of the applicant pool for the commission’s internship, Attorney Honors and Honors Engineering programs.
  • The FCC said it will increase recruitment efforts with affinity groups such as chapters of the National Black Law Students Association and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers to increase awareness about available internship and career opportunities.

In all, these efforts seek to diversify the talent among commission staff at the earliest stages of their careers and ultimately increase diversity in the communications sector overall, the chairman and commissioner said in a statement. With this initiative, the FCC joins other public and private institutions that have committed resources to create a more diverse workforce.

“Throughout my time at the commission, I have been committed to advocating for equity in the policies we implement,” said Commissioner Starks, who brought the idea for a new diversity initiative at the FCC to Chairman Pai. “And in the wake of the larger movement for racial justice, it is especially important for the commission to do its part to advance policies that center our most marginalized and create opportunities internally for our agency to ensure we have more diverse voices at the table.”

Chairman Pai said that promoting diversity in the tech and telecom sectors has been an important priority for him as FCC chairman.

“Establishing a paid internship program will help students who would otherwise have to forego an internship due to financial constraints,” he said. “And targeted outreach will ensure that more students from diverse backgrounds can participate, which benefits the FCC and the communications sector as a whole.”

The move was applauded by the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), which said the group was pleased to support the FCC in this bipartisan effort to address diversity challenges in the media, tech and telecom sectors.

“Since 1969, the FCC has expected its licensees to undertake similar steps to expand their employment pipeline to include minorities and women,” said MMTC Chair and Treasurer Ronald Johnson. “Our hope is that this leadership by Chairman Pai and Commissioner Starks will encourage those the FCC regulates — and others in the industry — to do their part to achieve a diverse pipeline in terms of talent, ownership and in the supply chain.”

Additional details, including how to apply, will be made available this fall.