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Tips for new government leaders: Unlocking diversity and inclusion | McKinsey



This article was a collaborative effort by Judy D’Agostino, Kweilin Ellingrud, Nora Gardner, Kerry Kraemer, and Sara O’Rourke representing views from McKinsey’s Public & Social Sector Practice.

The public and social sectors celebrate higher diversity levels in senior roles than the average across private industry (Exhibit 1). For example, 34 percent of C-suite-equivalent roles in the public and social sectors are held by women and 22 percent by people of color compared with 21 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in the broader workforce. However, there is still room for improvement. For example, the total share of women employees in the federal government as well as the share of women members of the Senior Executive Service have remained essentially flat

over the past several years.

Exhibit 1
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The COVID-19 crisis has made the challenges of both gender and racial diversity in the workplace more acute. Our 2020 Women in the Workplace Survey found that the pressures of the COVID-19 crisis are causing women to consider downshifting or leaving the workforce at higher rates than men, with one in four women (compared with one in five men) contemplating this shift. While many employees report high levels of exhaustion, burnout, and discomfort in sharing their personal challenges with coworkers during the crisis, the data show that women are experiencing these effects more acutely. In particular, three groups face distinct and compounding challenges: women in senior roles, Black women, and mothers of young children.

Diverse and inclusive teams improve workplaces and outcomes

Without dedicated initiatives focused on building and retaining a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive environment, workplaces (including public- and social-sector workplaces) could see a significant drop in the diversity of their workforces.

Research has repeatedly demonstrated the positive impact that diversity and inclusion have on organizational performance and outcomes (as well as the penalties suffered by organizations lacking diverse teams and inclusive environments). Benefits include better decision making, which is partly driven by having multiple perspectives brought to bear on problems as well as having an increased focus on and deliberation of the facts.

Researchers have also found a strong correlation between gender diversity and positive behaviors directly related to stronger organizational health. Additionally, McKinsey research shows that companies perceived as committed to diversity are approximately 75 percent more likely to support a pro-teamwork leadership culture.

Four imperatives for building a successful diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy

As leaders in government either step into new roles or prepare for broader organizational change, they have the opportunity to act and demonstrate their commitment to building diverse and inclusive environments. We recommend four steps to get started (Exhibit 2).

Exhibit 2
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1. Understand the starting point

The first step to building a successful diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy is understanding how the organization performs along these dimensions. To achieve that, new leaders can do the following:

2. Set a simple and bold aspiration

Once leaders have a sense for how diverse, equitable, and inclusive their organization is, they should set a bold and tangible aspiration and ensure their leadership team is committed to getting there. To do so, leaders can consider the following guidelines:

3. Define a targeted strategy

Creating a targeted strategy involves not only identifying specific opportunities to address the agency’s particular challenges but also engaging employees in those solutions. To do so, new leaders can consider the following:

4. Build on successes and ensure engagement at all levels

Defining a clear strategy is not enough—leaders should also make sure they have the mechanisms in place to ensure rigorous implementation. Focus and execution discipline not only makes a big difference, it is the only thing that can change things significantly and make that change sustainable. Leaders can ensure rigorous implementation in the following ways:

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the urgency and importance of transforming diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and has presented an opportunity for new leaders in government to reimagine how their organizations might work better and differently over the long term. By taking bold and effective steps to address their specific organizational challenges and enlisting everyone in the solution, leaders can craft a new workplace that is representative and inclusive of all groups and that enables improved mission outcomes.

This content was originally published here.

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