Imagine being one of the only females at your unit and pregnant. As you progress through your pregnancy, you notice that there is much room for improvement when it comes to the existing, outdated U.S. Coast Guard pregnancy policy. However, being new to the Coast Guard, you do not know how to affect such service-wide change. What do you do? Are you aware there is a council dedicated to working for you to address issues like this? The commandant’s vision is to have inclusion and provide a workplace climate where employees can contribute and reach their full potential. But what does this really mean to you?
The commandant’s Leadership, Excellence and Diversity Council was established to achieve this vision. Working with field Leadership and Diversity Advisory Councils, the LEAD Council brings leadership and diversity issues and best practices from the field to the commandant, and vice versa.
Although the LEAD Council is new, its roots can be traced back to 1990 when the Minority Advisory Council was created to increase understanding and awareness of minority issues at all levels of the Coast Guard. MAC has gone through many permutations to get to where it is now. In late 2011--to fulfill the commandant’s vision set forth in the Coast Guard’s Diversity Strategic Plan--the Leadership Advisory Council and Diversity Advisory Council merged to form the LEAD Council for the sake of focusing service-wide efforts and augmenting partnerships between Coast Guard leadership and diversity programs.
In conjunction with the formation of the LEAD Council, the Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council network was established. This network is dedicated to providing support at the unit level.
Replacing the legacy Human Relations Councils, these new groups and this specific structure will significantly help in communicating about leadership and diversity issues both up and down the chain of command. The LEAD Council hopes that, as a result of its establishment, leadership and diversity issues throughout the Coast Guard will be brought to the surface and discussed more thoroughly and frequently, and that communication will be more easily facilitated.
Under this new system, any concerns (e.g., the pregnancy policy described in the example above) can be brought to the local LDAC for discussion. Then, the matter will be referred to higher level LDACs, and, ultimately, the information will be collected and passed to the LEAD Council and briefed to the commandant. Although the formalized LDAC structure was not yet established in September, COMDTINST 1000.9, Pregnancy in the Coast Guard, was published as a result of this type of “grass roots” feedback. The new instruction used field input to address post-pregnancy physical fitness standards testing, breastfeeding, the medical leave block on officer’s evaluation reports and pregnancy in aviation.
Over the past few years, the DAC and LAC have effectively addressed important issues, such as: lack of women in non-traditional billets, lack of child development centers, geographic stability, speech capability concerns, single parent accessions, Body Mass Index and weight standards, female grooming standards, special duty assignments and possible waivers for folliculitis, and diversity at remote units, to name a few. Responses to some of these issues include but are not limited to: a memo being released to the uniform board; meetings set up with the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, recruiters, the Office of Personnel Management, and other subject- matter experts; and all issues being briefed to the Commandant.
Great success was made using the old system, but the new system will overcome some of its predecessor’s shortfalls. The multitude of issues overcome at the unit level using the old system did not have a formal communication network in place to reach levels empowered to make lasting, service-wide policy change. The new system and network will have a continuous communication flow leveraging the chain of command to reach appropriate levels. These changes will help enable large-scale change.
Although the majority of the LEAD Council is composed of active duty members, both civilians and the Coast Guard Auxiliary are represented, adding not only general Coast Guard topics, but also addressing issues specific to their communities. All members of the Coast Guard are encouraged to use their LDAC network and apply to be a member of the LEAD Council!