By Ellen McGirt
December 1, 2016

When Laura Weidman Powers landed a six-month gig as a policy advisor in the White House Office Of Science and Technology, she held onto her other day job, as CEO of Code2040, a nonprofit focused on increasing diversity in technology. Now that her White House stint is ending, she is a bit wistful. “People have no idea – I had no idea – how smart and dedicated people in government really are,” she said.

Powers is ending her brief tenure on a high note: the release of a comprehensive diversity report. It compiles all the data, insights and best practices that have been developed by the federal government since President Obama signed the August 2011 Executive Order announcing a government-wide initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce. Nothing like it has ever existed before in the public sphere.

The report, Raising the Floor: Sharing What Works in Workplace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, was co-authored with Megan Smith, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. It’s a tremendous gift to the business community. “As we come to the end of the administration, it was really important to us that we got everything we’d learned into the hands of the people who could really execute against it,” Powers says. “So many [executives] say, ‘I’m on board, but what do I do?’ And we felt like there are actually answers out there.”

For their report, Smith and Powers conducted dozens of interviews and examined the research and data collected by all the federal agencies as they sought to diversify their own workforces. The result is a detailed list of recommendations that touch on every aspect of talent development from hiring to leadership training, mentorship, accountability measures, feedback and beyond. “We believe that everyone could and should be doing these basic things,” she said. “They may be slightly different across industries, but by all means, iterate and customize.”

With the incoming Trump administration, these are uncertain times for the diversity and inclusion crowd. Powers offered some advice for raceAhead readers who may be feeling discouraged. “The facts on the ground haven’t changed from yesterday to today,” she said. “The business case for diversity hasn’t changed – it’s better for your bottom line, it increases innovation, all of that is still true.”

Powers says leaders need to show some courage around the subject of inclusion. “The rise of hate speech, yes, it’s scary and threatening.” The pushback is real. But people don’t do – or abandon – diversity work because the government tells them to. “You do it because it’s the right and profitable thing to do for your workforce, company and customers.”


On Point

The UC System plans to defy federal immigration agents wherever possible
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Los Angeles Times
Women are getting law degrees in record numbers. But not the jobs
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New York Times
New York City launches a $5 million fund for women in film
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New York Times
Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury pick, was once a “foreclosure machine”
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NPR
To impact diversity in your organization, make it personal
On stage at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference, Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture North America, said that the company’s global CEO asks each of his direct reports what they’ve personally done to impact diversity and inclusion at the company. She asks her direct reports the same. It was one great moment in a wide-ranging discussion that included a rallying cry for corporate America to do more to keep issues of race and justice front and center.
Fortune
Marty Baron to journalists: Fight for free expression and free speech
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Vanity Fair

The Woke Leader

Why white women voted for Donald Trump
He said racist things, he said sexist things. He bragged about sexual assault. Yet white women voted for him in droves. Why? Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, gave a fascinating presentation at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen, explaining that it’s the lack of “gender-political consciousness” among white, married women in America.  Cooper defined political consciousness as one’s ability to see his or her personal inequality and recognize its illegitimacy. It’s part of why “intersectionality” is so vital to any political debate, she says. A must read.
Fortune
On being black and a non-believer
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Aeon
To be happier and more creative, learn to flow
I covered a session on productivity yesterday at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference that got me thinking: Am I spending the time on what I really want to be doing? And am I fully present while doing it? These tips immediately inspired me. But one expert built her work on the concept of flow, the mystical state of full immersion in the moment identified by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. His TED talk is a crash course in greater happiness.
TED

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