The Importance of Diverse Public Service Leadership

Though growing in population, people of color remain underrepresented in public service leadership, an issue that can and must be resolved if we are to effectively change our nation’s most pressing social issues—from education to health, the environment and increasing inequality.

Our country is now composed of one-third, or 34 percent, people of color—a population that the US Census estimates will grow to 54 percent by 2042.

However, only 16 percent of federal government leadership positions are held by people of color, and on the state level, only 15 percent of statewide elective executive positions are held by people of color. Moreover, only 18 percent of nonprofit leadership positions are filled by people of color, and only 17 percent of foundation executives are people of color.

RCLA’s research and leadership programs have long focused on the importance of diverse leadership and inclusion across organizations. When current disparities in public service leadership are addressed, the public service sectors will be better able to solve social policy dilemmas. The participation of people of color and the infusion of diverse voices and experiences into decision-making processes ensure a sense of cultural competency and effectiveness within policy-based solutions to social issues.