Elaine Ho seems destined to serve her country. Following the footsteps of her father, a Chinese immigrant who was a pharmacist for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, she signed up for the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps after earning her J.D. with honors from the University of Florida, Levin College of Law.
Serving for more than four years as a criminal prosecutor in Okinawa, Japan, and Washington, D.C., Ho took a private-sector detour at a prestigious law firm where she gained valuable corporate diversity-management expertise. But in 2007, Ho returned to the federal government as director of the Office of Workplace Diversity & Inclusion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where she was responsible for promoting diversity at the 100,000-employee agency.
As the appointed permanent deputy executive director of equity, diversity and inclusion at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Ho continues her critical work at a similarly sized agency “that does so much more than just taxes,” she says. Ho is responsible for implementing the IRS’s diversity strategies, from leadership development and employee engagement to succession planning.
“The IRS is very data-driven—and that translates well into the diversity realm where we’re all about numbers,” she says, noting the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s goal for all federal agencies to have at least a 2 percent representation of people with targeted disabilities by 2010. “Because it’s a tangible goal, that’s something the IRS is actively working toward.”
To retain top talent at the agency, the IRS is holding focus groups with managers to improve the workplace environment and creating an intranet that streamlines the reasonable-accommodation process. “What I’ve come to love about diversity is the cross-section of disciplines,” she says. Ho also continues to serve the country as an Air Force Reservist, providing legal analysis and advice to the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.