The FBI’s Chief Diversity Officer Looks to Expand the Bureaus D&I Efforts

Sponsored by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Scott McMillion

Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation

In 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) to strengthen its commitment to developing and maintaining a workforce that reflects the diverse communities the Bureau serves. In May 2021, the FBI appointed Scott McMillion to lead ODI as its Chief Diversity Officer. 

A 24-year FBI veteran who has also served as the chair of the FBI’s Black Affairs Diversity Committee (BADC), McMillion now spearheads a cultural shift to amplify the voices of those who feel underrepresented in the FBI workforce and bring a more inclusive approach to meeting the FBI mission. As the FBI continues to embrace its pledge to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we spoke with McMillion about his vision and the initiatives sponsored by the FBI’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 

How has your FBI career shaped your vision for diversity and inclusion and led to your role as the head of the ODI?

Over my 24 years in the FBI, I have served in four field offices and three headquarter divisions. I also did a long-term assignment to our Human Resources Division (HRD) and served as an FBI detailee to a nongovernmental agency. The varied experiences I’ve had in both front-line and supervisory roles have helped prepare me to serve and lead ODI.

In 1998, I joined the FBI as a special agent and reported to the Omaha Field Office, where I investigated violent crime for eight years. Initially, I was one of two African American/Black special agents in that office. After the other agent transferred a few years later, I became the “only one” — i.e., Black and a special agent. I remember going to interview someone in the rural area or to an engagement and have someone say, “…oh, you’re Scott!” (Their voice shift and surprised facial expression pretty clearly indicated that they did not expect a Black man to be an FBI special agent.) 

While serving in the Omaha Field Office, I joined the FBI National Recruitment Team to help showcase subject matter expertise and diversity during recruitment events around the country. I recruited people of all racial/ethnic backgrounds into the FBI. Later, I transferred to the Phoenix Field Office’s Gallup, New Mexico’s resident agency, where I investigated criminal matters on the Navajo reservation. There I learned a lot about the Navajo Nation’s rich history and culture and developed a keen appreciation for the people and their “story,” which is the story of many American Natives. 

During my career, I also taught at international law enforcement academies and continued to learn and appreciate others’ backgrounds/experiences. I joined the BADC and helped facilitate “change” for the entire workforce. Whatever my assignment or my duty office, I have always sought to help the FBI through diversity and inclusion. 

Why did the FBI create the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and what do you hope to achieve this year?

By 2012—more than 100 years after the FBI opened its doors—it was clear that our diversity statistics were not aligned to our mission needs. To help the FBI go beyond the statistics and look to create a more inclusive culture, BADC recommended the creation of an Office of Diversity and Inclusion to centralize its efforts to make improvements. The office began with a senior executive and 10 employees as part of the Human Resources Division. Today, there are nearly twice the employees, numerous employees who serve temporary assignments to contribute to the ODI mission, and we report directly to one of our top executives.

By the end of my first year, I hope to accomplish two goals: 

  1. Enhance the FBI culture to fully embrace and appreciate diversity and inclusion and ensure we continue to build an environment where people can come to work as their authentic selves to collaboratively achieve the mission. 

  2. Continue the work to diversify the FBI workforce so it better represents the communities we serve. With greater diversity among the ranks and roles of the FBI, we can build communal trust as well as credibility in the community. I also want to make strides in inclusion. We know that people are more productive and have higher morale when they feel included. The advances we make as an inclusive culture will allow for expanded creativity, innovation, and ideas to achieve the FBI mission. 

How do you hope to further cultivate diversity and inclusion and promote a sense of belonging across the Bureau?

The FBI is a family of highly committed, tenacious, resilient people who serve unselfishly to uphold the Constitution and protect the American people. However, like any “family,” the FBI has its challenges. We want everyone in our workforce to feel welcomed, regardless of what they look like or the job they hold. We want all 37,000 employees to feel appreciated for their contribution to the mission and know that they are seen, heard, and valued. 

ODI has several programs in place to improve our environment and I will be sure to maintain that momentum. For example, ODI launched the Inclusion Campaign to provide employees and managers with a host of resources on how to be inclusive. The campaign also features “diversity dialogues” to engage the workforce in understanding others’ paths through the FBI. The dialogue sessions have covered Islamophobia, gender bias, and Juneteenth. 

For years, the FBI has hosted special emphasis and commemorative events at headquarters that are broadcast across the world to all personnel. I want to build on the awareness, knowledge, understanding and empathy these events create by expanding the opportunities for national speakers to present in our field offices. These events help employees identify with the racial, ethnic, cultural, gender identity and sexual orientation of others in the FBI workforce and in the communities we serve. After the success of ODI’s first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Town Hall, I want to create more opportunities for the employees to ask questions about diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. 

From our FBI senior leaders to the newest special agent recruit, I want to ensure that training is available on diversity and inclusion. We hold our leaders accountable for ensuring inclusiveness across their offices, units, squads and/or teams. To enhance those efforts, we want to see the training added to our leaders’ performance objectives. To help build the pipeline of diverse leaders, ODI’s Cross-Cultural Mentorship and Sponsorship program uses a unique matching system to pair executive mentors with mentees who don’t look like them. The program has helped hundreds of employees build their professional networks and I want to see that continue. I also want to encourage all of our division leaders to establish their own cross-functional D&I working groups so the voice of the workforce is heard and valued. 

What do you do in your day-to-day work life (and beyond) to be intentionally inclusive and overcome unintentional bias?

I strive every day to treat everyone with dignity and respect no matter what someone looks like, what their background may be, or what their views are. I don’t always agree with others, but I try to see and understand “their world” and their truth. I consciously recognize my biases, so they are not a factor in my decision making.  

I also try to be consciously inclusive by greeting everyone and pausing to listen to them and learn what is important to them. I recognize my employees for all achievements — small and large, front-facing and behind the scenes. I actively strive to bring others into a conversation, even people who are not as vocal, by ensuring the environment provides a safe space to convey their thoughts and views. I look to speak with other people who don’t look like me and who may not think like me. 

My bottom line is to get to know people and utilize their individual skill sets and knowledge in a way that maximizes their education, experiences, and former endeavors. I often seek to amplify someone else’s voice over my own and show empathy for someone else’s truth. I want to implement various thoughts, perspectives, insights and ideas; some of which I may not initially agree with. Being inclusive means drawing from others and cultivating their input, creativity, and innovation to achieve success.  

How does the FBI support women in the workplace? What benefits and resources are available to them?

About 44% of the FBI workforce is made up of women who are valued and supported throughout their career. There are both formal and informal groups to support them. The Women’s Advisory Committee (WAC) brings matters and issues faced by women to the forefront of executive attention and seeks to resolve them. The FBI regularly recognizes the contributions women have made throughout the year and during Women’s History Month. Also, ODI’s Cross-Cultural Mentorship and Sponsorship program helps build the professional networks of women by pairing mentees with a mentor who may be gendered differently. 

How has putting the practice of diversity and inclusion for all strengthened the FBI? How are women, specifically, shaping the FBI?

The FBI is continuously striving to become more diverse and inclusive. The Bureau has been strengthened by these efforts in both its investigations, intelligence gathering, and administrative function. We continue to become more creative and innovative in solving challenges and staying ahead of the threats facing the nation. Our work in diversity and inclusion has enabled us to better mitigate the complexities of domestic and foreign threats facing the country.  

Some of the most senior positions designated to address those challenges are held by women. They manage some of our most significant responsibilities and serve as role models in moving the Bureau forward. Right now, there are two women serving as executive assistant directors, 42% serving as assistant director of a division are women, and 13% of those leading a field office are women. Collectively and individually, these women are shaping the Bureau with their perspectives and experience while implementing procedures, practices, policies, and/or strategic plans that will help the FBI achieve its mission for the American people.

Who are some of the strong women colleagues and/or individuals who helped promote stronger acceptance and support DEI practices at the FBI?

There are many women whose contributions to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility have created and enhanced our workforce and the environment in which we achieve our mission. For example, Executive Assistant Director Larissa Knapp; Executive Assistant Director Jennifer Moore; Assistant Director Rachel Rojas; Assistant Director in Charge Kristi Johnson; Assistant Director Arlene Gaylord; Assistant Director Voviette Morgan; and retired Assistant Director A. Tonya Odom have all made significant contributions to the FBI. Some have been “firsts” and were role models for other women in the leadership pipeline. Assistant Director Rojas was the first Latina to lead a field office and EAD Knapp is the first Asian woman to be an executive assistant director. Recently, in San Juan, a Black female special agent became the FBI’s first SWAT operator.

Is there anything else that you would like to note?

Dedication and resilience. The FBI is committed to building and maintaining a high-performing diverse and inclusive workforce through equitable practices and procedures and, therefore, we need people who haven’t considered serving the country in this way to now consider us. 

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