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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility at TTS

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are the fabric of a healthy democracy and innovation.

- Dave Zvenyach, TTS Director

At TTS, our mission is to design and deliver a digital government with and for the American public. To ensure that the products we build and services we offer truly serve everyone, we center our work on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (also known as DEIA). In particular, we align our efforts with recent Executive Orders on DEIA in the federal workforce and advancing racial equity through government services.

Our approach to DEIA

We believe that diversity is vital to a successful organization and that we must reflect the diversity of the public we serve. We also recognize that a diverse workforce is not enough. We are committed to promoting an inclusive environment where we celebrate what brings us together and makes us unique. To that end, we believe DEIA is a people-centric, collective effort and that one employee is enough to merit change.

Diversity

Our definition: Diversity centers the representation of voices and experiences

Our examples: Org-wide and leadership demographics, career progression, and programming

TTS plays a key role in developing the government’s digital products and services. It is imperative that the diversity of our team reflects that of our country. Our initiatives to improve diversity internally include:

  • Publishing — and responding to — demographic data on a quarterly basis.
  • Supporting affinity groups.
  • Coordinating with GSA’s Senior Advisor for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility.
  • Investing in DEIA with dedicated funding and support ($500k budget allocated as of FY21)

In addition, our Talent team prioritizes diversity and equity in the hiring process. TTS Talent efforts include:

  • Creating fair and equitable interview guides.
  • Training SMEs and interviewers to be fair and equitable and to reduce bias in the process.
  • Leading regular info sessions for candidates that focus on demystifying the federal hiring process.

Equity

Our definition: Equity implores us to examine the impacts of the structures and systems that govern our policies, processes, and decision-making

Our examples: Special opportunities and awards, promotions and pay, performance reviews

Some of our efforts to center equity include:

  • Space and grace: A grassroots effort for mental health and wellbeing at work. This includes flexible work schedules, administrative paid leave, mental health breaks, and intentional tips for balancing the intersection of work and our world.
  • Engage all new employees with a DEIA onboarding class  to share resources, guilds, and affinity groups available to foster belonging at TTS.
  • Creating transparency and accountability in career progression and professional development, ensuring that every employee has growth opportunities while they are here.
  • Strengthen supervisor knowledge and support: Supervisors desire more time to nurture and grow direct reports, as well as resources for courageous conversations and conflict resolution. The Diversity Guild offers DEIA programming during monthly all-supervisors meetings. Recently, we’ve covered reasonable accommodations, anti-harassment, demystifying HR, and the unique strengths Veterans bring into the workplace.

Inclusion

Our definition: Inclusion and belonging focus on the culture of the workplace environment

Our examples: Project design and research, meetings, decision making, team values, Code of Conduct

We foster inclusion both internally and externally:

  • We offer the #g-diversity and #g-accessibility Slack channels and weekly office hours for employees to share questions, knowledge, and ideas.
  • TTS affinity groups foster inclusion at work. Our affinity groups are spaces where employees of similar identities come together in community. Affinity groups hold regular meetings for members, but also often host community programming to connect with employees across TTS. One example is Working While Black (WWB) — our affinity group for Black and African American employees — 2021 Black History Month Slack takeover. Each day of Black History Month, a member of WWB highlighted Black and African American innovators, events, and culture.
  • Externally, the content we write and products we build follow our inclusive language guide. This guide outlines principles, resources, and suggestions for talking about diverse groups of people.
  • All TTS supervisors have GSA’s Leveraging Diversity metric as part of their performance plans.

Accessibility

Our definition: Accessibility considers ability to access the tools and capabilities that allow for equal and full participation

Our examples: Providing reasonable accommodations, training for best practices and manual testing, developing and procuring accessible software, supporting the Section 508 team and their responsibilities, flexible work schedules, and:

  • Sharing our accessibility learnings by publishing writing guides, holding talks, inviting external speakers,writing blogs, and sharing learnings at conferences.
  • Ensuring our products and services satisfy all the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA.  We also wrote a checklist to make sure we’re meeting all the guidelines.
  • Equipping each team member with skills to successfully run an accessibility audit.
  • Promoting inclusive design by including people of all abilities in user experience testing. This means adopting a “Solve for one, extend to many” methodology.
  • Contribute to a workplace culture that celebrates people of all abilities.

Behaviors and Resources

We maintain a list of inclusive behaviors for individuals, supervisors, teams, and organizations. We also maintain a list of resources to help our employees understand and advance DEIA through their work.

DEIA Guilds

TTS has two Guilds that support our DEIA efforts: Diversity Guild and Accessibility Guild.

Diversity Guild

Founded in 2014, the Diversity Guild exists to advance TTS’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Its purpose as a guild is to help make TTS a great place to work for people of all backgrounds. The Diversity Guild has active support from senior leadership and budget to achieve these goals. The group also provides insight on how TTS currently integrates DEI and could better integrate DEI principles at every point: from recruitment, interviewing, and onboarding, all the way to terming out, leaving the organization, or even returning to TTS. It seeks to advance DEIA in a variety of grassroots ways.

1. DEIA Reps: Volunteers  across TTS that help teams create a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and welcoming TTS. The DEIA reps inform decision-making on both the team and organizational levels, and collaborate on projects around hiring and retention; programming; and storytelling and communication. TTS staff can become DEIA reps by reaching out to their team lead, current DEIA rep, or the Diversity Guild leads. For more information, see the DEIA rep internal listing.

2. Programming: The Diversity Guild schedules regular programming to engage employees across TTS. Additionally, it holds weekly sessions (“Office Hours) focused on a variety of DEIA topics - for example,  LGBTQ+ Inclusion at Work and in Tech; the Civic Design Framework; and De-Stigmatizing Mental Health at Work. Office Hours are held every Friday at 12:30-1pm EST. The meetings show up on the TTS Working Groups and Guilds Calendar. If you would like to be added to the invites directly, please message one of the Diversity Guild co-leads.

3. Resources: The Diversity Guild maintains a list of resources, and it regularly shares articles, talks, and events with TTS staff via its Slack channel. Join our Slack channel, #g-diversity. (And please read the Guidelines for the #G-Diversity Channel.)

Accessibility Guild

Our Accessibility Guild aims to empower TTS staff to center accessibility in their work. In particular, this guild’s mission is to help TTS procure and develop accessible products to provide an excellent user experience for everyone. This includes thinking about accessibility in every step of a project: vendor management and procurement, inclusive usability testing, universal design principles in visual design and prototypes and software engineering best practices. The guild provides training and awareness to make accessibility everyone’s responsibility.

For more information, see the Accessibility Handbook page, Accessibility Guide, or join the #g-accessibility Slack channel.

How we learn

As an organization, TTS is committed to learning from its DEIA efforts. We strive to collect and publish data, and we use these results to reflect honestly and critically about our progress. We have a number of channels through which we regularly collect feedback from employees.

  • Bi-annual Inclusion and Belonging Survey: In 2019, the Diversity Guild released the first-ever TTS Inclusion and Belonging survey as a benchmark for measuring how TTS is doing in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. The responses inform the work of the Diversity Guild, both in guiding TTS-wide action items and in planning weekly Guild Office Hours. As of 2021, the Diversity Guild conducts the survey twice each fiscal year: View results from 2019 and 2020.
  • Affinity Groups Listening Tour: We work with TTS affinity groups to understand colleagues’ unique experiences, perspectives, expertise, and needs, and advocate for visibility, sponsorship, and accountability with leaders across our organization. This includes quarterly listening sessions with the TTS Executive Director and Diversity Guild Co-Leads. Guild Co-Leads work with senior leadership, Talent, our People Ops team, and other internal partners to map feedback into meaningful action. For example, we partnered with our Employee Relations Specialist to improve supervisor documentation for performance management and conflict resolution based on feedback from affinity groups!
  • Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) sends an annual, quantitative survey to federal employees across the government.

If at any point you have questions, concerns, or feedback that you aren’t comfortable sharing in public, the Diversity Guild co-leads maintain an anonymous form for questions or issues regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion at TTS.

Demographic Data

For TTS employees, org-level and business unit-level demographic data has been available since 2017; the spreadsheet is updated quarterly to reflect current numbers. For those outside of TTS, FedScope is the most detailed public-facing website for federal employee demographic data.

Affinity Groups

Affinity groups are spaces where employees of similar identities can talk freely amongst themselves. Depending on the group, it may be open or invite-only.

Be respectful of space! If you do not identify with these groups, show your allyship by giving space for people in these groups to talk freely amongst themselves. The Diversity Guild is still the place to ask questions, show your support, share resources, learn, listen, and bring up important topics.

The Diversity Guild celebrates and encourages all kinds of diversity, so if you feel like there is a need for a certain kind of group, start your own Slack channel or ask for help from the Diversity Guild to plug and promote it.

The open groups, which are available to all TTS staff, are:

  • #LGBTQQIAAP —  is for anyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, or pansexual.
  • #Aging parents — is support for people with aging parents.
  • #Parents — is for parents… and friends of parents.
  • #Women — is an intersectional TTS employee resource group for womxn that provides a safe place to share their experiences and support one another.
  • #Self-care — is for sharing tips for taking care of yourself with a focus on mental health.
  • #vets - is for Veterans and colleagues with a Veteran affinity.
  • #neurodiversity - is a place to share and discuss lived experiences of neurodiversity.

There are some groups that are invite-only. For an invitation to these groups, please see this Slack post, which includes contact people for each invite-only group. The invite-only groups are:

  • Latinx — A space for people who identify as Latinx, Hispanic, Chicanx, Boricua, Cubano, etc.
  • Asian and Pacific Islanders — A place for Asian and Pacific Islander TTS staff members to hang out and talk.
  • Working While Black — A space for Black TTS staff members.
  • Shalom Jews — A space for TTS employees that consider themselves Jewish, Jew-ish, Jew-curious, culturally Jewish, or anything else!
  • People with Disabilities (PwD) — Private channel for anyone who identifies themselves as disabled.
  • Not Your Dude — Private channel for cis women, trans women, trans men, non-binary people, and those who are otherwise marginalized (i.e., non-hegemonic masculine folks).

Questions?