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What Does the DEIA Executive Order Mean for Federal Employees?

What Does the DEIA Executive Order Mean for Federal Employees

In a significant move toward fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), The White House issued Executive Order 14035 on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) in the Federal Workforce on June 25, 2021.

This directive, signed by President Joe Biden, holds profound implications for federal employees and sets a new standard for DEI policies across agencies.

In this post, we’ll explore the key provisions of Executive Order 14035 and the order’s effects on federal employees. We’ll also highlight its transformative potential for the government’s workforce and its mission to serve all.

In this post, you’ll find:

  • What does the DEIA Executive Order #14035 say?
  • What does Executive Order 14035 mean for federal employees and their rights?
  • The meaning behind terms like diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility
  • Training and reporting requirements outlined in DEIA Executive Order 14035
  • Timelines for implementing provisions of this executive order
  • Resources and support for federal employees
  • Frequently asked questions about Executive Order #14035
  • More about the White House initiative further advancing racial equity in education

Executive Order 14035 mandates a thorough review and enhancement of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility policies within federal agencies. Moreover, it requires establishing strategic plans to promote these values at all levels of government operations. By prioritizing DEIA, the President – and by extension, the federal government, aims to eliminate discrimination in the federal workplace and create a culture in which every employee feels heard, valued, supported, and empowered.

This Executive Order builds on Executive Order #13985 (Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government), which President Biden signed on his first day in office.

Understanding the impact of executive orders is crucial for federal employers and employees. In particular, EO14035 will shape your work environment and deepen the government’s commitment to serving all communities effectively and equitably.

The DEIA Executive Order 14035

The White House - DEIA Executive Order 14035

DEIA Executive Order 14035 was a landmark directive issued by President Joe Biden on June 25, 2021. Its aim was to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) and eliminate discrimination in the federal workforce and operations.

The order aims to foster more inclusive and equitable employment by addressing systemic barriers and discrimination while advancing equity for all federal employees. Consequently, it mandates a thorough review of, and improvements on, DEIA policies across federal agencies.

Throughout, EO14035 emphasizes the importance of diversity in recruitment, retention, and advancement as well as equitable access to opportunities and resources for all. The order specifically mentions the importance of inclusion and equity for marginalized groups such as people with disabilities, people of color, LGBTQ+ employees, veterans, and more.

Key components of the order include strategic plans to promote DEIA and combat discrimination, collection and analysis of data related to diversity and inclusion, and training programs to grow understanding of DEIA principles.

By prioritizing DEIA, Executive Order 14035 underscores the government’s commitment to creating workplaces where everyone is valued and empowered, fostering a more representative and effective federal workforce.

Key Definitions and Terminology

Woman's Hands Thumbing Through Dictionary - Key Definitions and Terminology DEIA Executive Order

A few key terms are used throughout Executive Order 14035 and this post. Below, we’ve shared some definitions:


Diversity refers to the presence of a variety of characteristics within a group. These may include differences in background, perspective, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, class, religion, education, and life experience.

Executive Order 14035 defines diversity as “the practice of including the many communities, identities, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities, cultures, and beliefs of the American people, including underserved communities.”


Equity refers to the practice of offering fair treatment, access, and opportunities to all – while also addressing systemic barriers that harm marginalized groups. Remember, equity is different from equality! While equality focuses on treating everyone the same, equity acknowledges the importance of supporting people’s individual needs in pursuit of collective well-being.

EO14035 defines equity as “the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment.”


Inclusion means actively helping others feel welcomed, valued, and respected. Having rights and being tolerated at work are the bare minimum, not the goal. Aim for a sense of inclusion that creates belonging and support. Virtual team building activities led by expert guides are a great way to foster team camaraderie and connections.

The DEIA Executive Order defines inclusion as “the recognition, appreciation, and use of the talents and skills of employees of all backgrounds.”


Accessibility encompasses the creation of inclusive work environments, communications, goods, and services that aim to eliminate barriers for people with disabilities. Moreover, flexible resources, like remote work and adaptable time-off policies, don’t just enhance accessibility for those with disabilities. They also support working parents, employees navigating different time zones, those facing life transitions, and beyond.

Executive Order 14035 defines accessibility as “the design, construction, development, and maintenance of facilities, information and communication technology, programs, and services so that all people, including people with disabilities, can fully and independently use them.”

The Impact of Transforming Federal Diversity with DEI Policies and Standards

Three women sit at a table with notebooks and a laptop

DEIA Executive Order 14035 brings a shift in the development and implementation of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility policies within the federal government.

By mandating a government-wide strategic plan focused on DEIA (to be updated at least every 4 years), the order compels agencies to prioritize these values in all aspects of operations. Agencies will be required to put DEIA values at the forefront – from recruitment and hiring to professional development and advancement opportunities.

Moreover, the requirement to collect and analyze data related to diversity and inclusion helps ensure transparency while enabling agencies to track progress. Data will help agencies identify areas for improvement, fostering a culture of continuous growth and learning. By requiring agencies to submit a preliminary assessment on the state of DEIA in their HR practices and workforce, the order also creates a baseline for future comparison.

By focusing on diversity and inclusion, the order not only enhances the representation of underrepresented groups within federal agencies – it also fosters a sense of belonging and empowerment among employees from diverse backgrounds. And, by eliminating barriers to opportunities, the order creates a more level playing field – leading to a more engaged, motivated, and innovative workforce.

Overall, Executive Order 14035 holds the potential to transform the federal government into a model employer, setting a new standard for workplaces across the country and governments around the world.

Navigating Toward Inclusive Federal Practices

Two people shake hands over a desk - EO14035

At 5,000+ words, Executive Order 14035 contains nuanced provisions too extensive to list here in detail. That said, there are a a few key takeaways to keep in mind:

DEIA Executive Order 14035 articulates the federal government’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. It shares the importance of “a workforce that reflects the diversity of the American people.” The order requires agencies to implement a Government-wide DEIA Plan. Additionally, agencies must develop their own Agency DEIA Strategic Plans.

Agencies are also required to examine and address any racial and gender pay gaps. The order notes that the OPM (U.S. Office of Personnel Management) will consider whether to prohibit agencies from seeking applicants’ pay history during hiring or when setting pay for current employees.

When it comes to hiring, the order encourages agencies to embrace partnerships with universities for people of color, women’s colleges, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, disability service offices, organizations serving veterans, and more. EO14035 also emphasizes the importance of advancing equity for LGBTQ+ employees. Provisions include covering gender-affirming care through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and equitable access to insurance benefits.

Additionally, agencies must collect and analyze data related to diversity and inclusion to track progress and ensure accountability (while protecting employee data privacy). The Executive Order also requires agencies to implement trainings to build awareness and understanding of DEIA principles and submit annual reports to the President on efforts to advance DEIA.

Finally, the Executive Order directs OPM to guide the federal government on best practices related to paid internships, fellowships, and apprentices to ensure equitable opportunities for all. Moreover, agencies are encouraged to create positions such as chief diversity officer to help the agency focus on DEIA initiatives on an ongoing basis.

Impact on Federal Employees

Men in business casual attire with laptops

Executive Order 14035 directly impacts federal employees by addressing systemic discrimination, promoting accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and fostering a more inclusive and equitable work environment.

Let’s explore a few key areas of the executive order in more detail before delving into timelines for implementation.

Training and Requirements

Section 9, of Executive Order 14035, “Training and Learning,” shares that each agency “shall take steps to implement or increase the availability and use of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility training programs.”

The order notes trainings should teach employees about institutional racism and bias. Programs should also help employees build skillsets to promote respectful and inclusive workplaces. Goals also include eliminating workplace harassment, sharing about agency accessibility practices, and growing understanding of implicit and unconscious bias.

Pro tip: make diversity training planning seamless with a GSA MAS (Multiple Award Schedule) vendor like Unexpected Virtual Tours & Training.

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

In the last few years since it was issued, Executive Order #14035 has spurred efforts across federal agencies to promote diversity and inclusion through targeted recruitment, mentorship programs, training initiatives, and policy changes.

These measures aim to create a more diverse and inclusive federal workforce, fostering innovation and enhancing the government’s ability to serve an increasingly diverse population.

By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, federal institutions can build trust with the public and ensure alignment with the communities they serve. Overall, these efforts are essential for cultivating a workforce that can effectively address the nation’s complex challenges.

Timeline for Implementation

Calendar pages - Timeline for Implementing DEIA Executive Order 14035

Executive Order 14035 includes directives for short-term goals and long-term objectives. Let’s delve into each:

Short-Term Goals

EO14035 outlined short-term provisions that have since passed. These included:

  • Within 100 days of EO14035: Heads of each agency submitted a preliminary assessment on DEIA in their agency’s HR practices and workforce composition.
  • Within 150 days of EO14035: Key federal government staff and agencies collaborated to create a Government-wide DEIA Strategic Plan.
  • Within 120 days of the Government-wide DEIA Plan (and annually after): Heads of each agency developed and submitted an Agency DEIA Strategic Plan.

Long-Term Objectives

The DEIA Executive Order also outlines long-term, year-round, ongoing agency objectives. These include:

  • Achieving and maintaining a diverse workforce that reflects the diversity of our country.
  • Establishing a workplace culture where diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are integral to every aspect of operations.
  • Eliminating systemic barriers and biases that hold back marginalized groups – including people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ employees, veterans, and others.
  • Creating pathways for career development and equitable advancement opportunities for all.
  • Promoting accountability and transparency through annual reporting related to diversity and inclusion.
  • Fostering partnerships with organizations focused on diversity and equity.
  • Evaluate and refine policies to ensure alignment with DEIA principles and best practices, including pay equity.

Accountability and Enforcement

Hand searching through blue file folder - DEIA Executive Order Enforcement

There are several accountability and enforcement mechanisms outlined in the DEIA Executive Order:

Reporting Requirements

EO14035 outlines a variety of reporting requirements. Here are a few key requirements to keep in mind:

  • Agencies are required to report annually to the President on the status of their efforts to advance DEIA within the agency; this report will include updates on:
    • Progress in implementing their Agency DEIA Strategic Plan.
    • Progress made with regard to paid internship programs and recruitment efforts.
    • Outreach and partnerships with external organizations focused on diversity.

The EO notes that agency reports “shall include measurement of improvements, analysis of the effectiveness of agency programs, and descriptions of lessons learned.”

The head of each agency must also collect and analyze voluntarily self-reported demographic data on the membership of advisory committees, commissions, and boards (while also complying with privacy and confidentiality protections).

As part of Section 12 (Pay Equity), agencies should report to OPM pay practice updates or resulting from the pay equity review process.

Consequences for Non-Compliance

Consequences for non-compliance with EO14035 can vary depending on which provisions are violated and the conditions, frequency, and intensity with which they are violated.

For instance, potential consequences could include disciplinary action for employees responsible for the lack of compliance. Additionally, institutions can risk federal funding when they fail to comply with federal mandates. Agencies may also be required to develop action plans to remedy their failure to comply with Executive Order mandates. Above all, failure to comply with directives puts the advancement of diversity, equity, inclusivity, and accessibility at risk.

Resources and Support for Federal Employees

Hispanic woman working at desk

There are a variety of resources available to federal employees navigating changes from the DEIA Executive Order. Below are some links for further learning.

Diversity and Inclusion Officers

EO14035 encourages agencies to establish a position of chief diversity officer or diversity and inclusion officer with enough seniority to coordinate efforts to promote agency-wide DEIA. If you’re considering adding a diversity or inclusion officer to your team, browse these resources:

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

An ERG is a voluntary, employee-led group that provides support, networking, and opportunities for individuals with shared identities or interests. For instance, companies may have ERGs for women, Black employees, parents, LGBTQ+ employees, employees with disabilities, veterans, and more.

Learn more about Employee Resource Groups with our blog posts on this topic:

Training and Development Programs

Section 9 of EO14035 encourages agencies to implement or increase the availability and use of DEIA training programs. However, this provision doesn’t have to mean hours of planning or endless prep work.

Companies like Unexpected Virtual Tours & Training offer live, interactive turnkey DEI training programs. In fact, our programs are created by subject matter experts and researchers, led by friendly, knowledgeable guides! Join us to see why our programs are loved by employees from Google, Salesforce, UPS, Coca-Cola, and more.

Learn more about training on diversity and inclusion in the public sector with our blog post on this topic!

FAQs about the DEIA Executive Order

Three business associates sit in folding chairs in discussion

How will the DEIA Executive Order affect my day-to-day work?

As a federal employee, Executive Order 14035 will likely bring some changes to your daily work. Federal employees may notice more targeted efforts to promote diversity and inclusion through updated recruitment and hiring practices, pay adjustments in pursuit of more equitable salaries, new training programs, enhanced DEI standards, and/or a focus on collecting and analyzing data.

You may also notice new opportunities for growth and improvements in workplace policies.

What training will federal employees be required to undergo as a result of EO14035?

Section 9 of EO14035 notes, “The head of each agency shall take steps to implement or increase the availability and use of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility training programs for employees, managers, and leadership. Such training programs should enable Federal employees, managers, and leaders to have knowledge of systemic and institutional racism and bias against underserved communities, be supported in building skillsets to promote respectful and inclusive workplaces and eliminate workplace harassment, have knowledge of agency accessibility practices, and have increased understanding of implicit and unconscious bias.”

In other words, federal employees may be required to participate in training sessions on DEIA topics, with the goal of fostering a greater sense of understanding, equity, and inclusion among your team.

How will Executive Order 14035 be enforced?

In many instances, heads of various federal agencies are responsible for implementing provisions in Executive Order 14035.

Additionally, institutions may choose to create oversight committees or designate specific offices or employees to enforce compliance. EO14035 encourages creating positions such as chief diversity officer to coordinate efforts related to DEIA.

Furthermore, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is tasked with guiding and supporting agencies in implementing the order and ensuring accountability. Overall, enforcement of Executive Order 14035 will require collaboration between The White House, federal agencies, OPM, and other stakeholders.

What are the Executive Orders on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity?

In fall 2021, President Biden issued a series of executive orders related to a White House initiative advancing educational equity and reducing discrimination in education. These EOs address concerns, challenges, and priorities for Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities.

The executive orders focused on advancing educational equity included Executive Order 13592, Executive Order 14045, and Executive Order 14050.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Government

In conclusion, Executive Order 14035 represents a groundbreaking White House initiative to prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. For federal employees, the potential benefits of this order are significant: they range from increased representation and workplace belonging to enhanced access to resources and opportunities for professional growth.

As we move forward, stay informed about government DEIA initiatives and support efforts to build more equitable workplaces. To keep up-to-date, bookmark The White House Briefing Room webpage and the Office of Personnel Management website.

Programs like the DEI training sessions from Unexpected Virtual Tours & Training can help employees better understand and practice DEI-related concepts. For instance, learn about cultural appropriation through music during our Music Evolution: For the Culture program.

Watch a preview of the Music Evolution program below!

Reach out below to learn more and book your team’s DEI training session:

Looking for more resources for government employees? If so, explore our blog on the benefits of diversity in government training programs. Plus, browse ideas for promoting equality and diversity in local government!