Incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Considerations into the 2021 Department of the Air Force Developmental Education Selection Boards

Analysis of Outcomes

by Raymond E. Conley, Kimberly Curry Hall, Claude Messan Setodji, Stephen W. Oliver, Jr., Sarah W. Denton, C. Ben Gibson, Paul Emslie, Shawn Cochran, Michael Schiefer, Melissa Bauman


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Research Questions

  1. What effect does making demographic data visible to members of Department of the Air Force (DAF) career development and promotion boards have?
  2. Given that, between 2020 and 2021, Central Professional Military Education Program (CPME) Board members underwent unconscious bias training and their instructions concerning consideration of race, ethnicity, and gender were modified, how did the 2020 outcomes (before the changes in guidance) compare with the 2021 outcomes (after the changes)?

The Department of the Air Force (DAF) promulgates directives, memorandums of instructions, and other guidance embracing the importance of diversity. Indeed, DAF Senior Leadership is on record stating that diversity is a mission imperative. Yet, demographic data have been masked for most boards making decisions about career development and promotions. The DAF wanted to assess the efficacy of making demographic data visible to board members. The 2021 Central Professional Military Education Program (CPME) Boards provided an opportunity to test the effects of unmasking the data to board members. In addition, the DAF implemented two other diversity and inclusion–related changes for the 2021 CPME board: (1) board members underwent unconscious bias training, and (2) instructions to board members concerning consideration of race, ethnicity, and gender were modified. In this report, the authors present the results of analyses comparing the 2020 outcomes (before the changes in guidance) with the 2021 outcomes (after the changes).

In conducting this research, the project team used a mixed-methods approach. Specifically, the team analyzed board inputs and selection outcomes for the 2020 CPME board (before the changes) and 2021 CPME board (after the changes) to assess the effects on the selection likelihood for minority versus nonminority members; conducted semistructured interviews with 2020 and 2021 board members to learn about their experiences and how they interpreted and applied the new instructions to illuminate the quantitative patterns in the data; and reviewed relevant literature to identify trends that might assist the DAF in implementing the proposed changes.

Key Findings

  • Board member interviews and available data generally indicate that unmasking race, ethnicity, and gender (REG) data and other changes that the DAF made for the 2021 CPME board did not have a significant effect on intermediate developmental education (IDE) and senior developmental education board results when compared with the 2020 board.
  • Most board members, for various reasons, explicitly chose not to consider REG data during the evaluation process.
  • Given that this board is merely one data point, it is important to not make strong conclusions about unmasking REG data and selection board outcomes.


  • DAF should adjust future developmental education boards, communicating diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and reviewing the IDE "definitely attend" process.
  • After making the recommended changes for future CPME boards, DAF should keep the REG data unmasked for the next CPME board and analyze the results to determine whether the changes are having the desired effect.
  • DAF should leverage other aspects of human capital development and management cycle.
  • DAF should consider adopting strategic communications and cultural change management techniques, such as employing an enterprise strategic communications and change management approach and addressing DAF cultural norms.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Developmental Board Processes

  • Chapter Three

    Developmental Education Board Outcomes

  • Chapter Four

    Equivalent Group (Look-Alike) Analysis

  • Chapter Five

    Summary of Issues and Potential Actions to Address

  • Chapter Six

    Conclusion and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Developmental Education Board Process

  • Appendix B

    Unmasking Trends in Developmental Education Selection

  • Appendix C

    IDE and SDE Model Analysis

  • Appendix D

    Augmenting Regression Analysis with Textual Analysis

  • Appendix E

    Look-Alike Analysis

  • Appendix F

    Board Member Interview Protocols

Research conducted by

This research was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force and conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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