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Blog

Brookings Institution: 32% POCs, 53% women

In 2016, as Brookings marked its centenary year, we committed to inclusion and diversity as a strategic goal for our Institution’s future. When I assumed the role of Brookings president last year, many of my first conversations with staff throughout the Institution were about inclusion and diversity. Do we, as a staff, reflect the communities we aim to serve? Where we don’t, what can be done?

These conversations were familiar to me. In my 45-year career as a national security professional and Marine Corps General, I had the great fortune to serve alongside so many extraordinary men and women that came from all walks of life. The combination of their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives made each unit stronger and more effective. I understood the importance of promoting diversity and inclusivity—of acknowledging where we have work to do, and committing to improvements.

Starting today, Brookings will for the first time make our workforce demographic data publicly available on an annual basis. We are proud to be among a growing movement in sharing this data with the general public. I have made it clear to the Institution that we will continue to prioritize inclusion and diversity efforts. Even more so, I aim to make this work central to my tenure as president of Brookings.

What do the numbers show?

As of July 2018, 52 percent of all 444 full-time Brookings employees were women and 32 percent were people of color. Among fellows and senior fellows, however, the gender and racial breakdowns were not where we want them to be. Only 34 percent of our fellows were female and just 22 percent of our fellows were people of color. Diversity among staff in research support positions—including research assistants and analysts—was slightly better. Overall, the highest percentages of women and people of color at Brookings are in operational positions. Our entire demographic data is available here.

We are cognizant that the data we collect as part of our affirmative action questionnaire does not fully capture every element of diversity. Yet we are also aware that we can’t measure progress on what we don’t attempt to quantify. Quantifying these elements illustrates their importance to the Institution and allows us to make improvements and hold ourselves accountable. Diversity is of course made of many factors and qualities, and in future reports we will look for new ways to quantify and analyze the diversity of our existing staff, and share those findings as appropriate.

Finally, I’ll state that while diversity among our staff—in terms of race, gender, and identity—is critical to our strength as an Institution, so is inclusion. This means ensuring that that each individual is heard, appreciated, and empowered to fully participate in Brookings’s mission. Moving forward, our efforts to improve diversity will go hand-in-hand with our promotion of greater inclusivity.

What are we doing to improve?

The first step of this important work is acknowledging that structural inequalities have real consequences for Brookings and its work. In order to become an Institution whose staff reflect the diversity of the broader society we aim to support, we must understand these inequalities and improve our policies in response.

Diversifying the composition of our workforce will make our work more relevant, creative, and compelling—and we are committed to making that happen. Last year, we launched the David M. Rubinstein Fellows Program as one part of our work to build a diverse, next-generation cohort of outstanding scholars in each of our research programs. We also started a new research initiative on race, prosperity, and inclusion to advance the study of equity and the economic prospects of poor and low-income Americans and of communities of color. In May of 2018, we launched a new initiative that aims to improve the quality of life for all members of America’s diverse middle class. Diversity of perspectives is critical to ensuring these research efforts have a substantive impact on public policy, and we’re committed to ensuring those perspectives are included. Finally, we know from experience that tracking these metrics can help us improve: in 2015, we started tracking the make-up of Brookings Institution panels with the aim of showcasing a greater diversity of perspectives at our public events. We’ve seen a 47% decline in all-male panels since we began that exercise.

In the months ahead, we will continue to refine our recruitment practices to ensure we hire from broad applicant pools. We will also examine the role our organization can play in creating opportunities for more young people to pursue higher education, with an aim of addressing the pipeline issues that result in fewer women and people of color in the pool of applicants for senior research positions. We have adjusted our hiring practices to ask for desired salary ranges and not salary histories, which contributes to more equitable salaries for staff who are traditionally likely to be paid less. Our Inclusion and Diversity Committee, comprised of leadership from across the Institution, and led by Vice President and General Counsel Ona Alston Dosunmu, will ensure new recommendations and initiatives are adopted consistently and thoroughly throughout the Institution. Perhaps most importantly, we’ll hold ourselves accountable to improvement.

In addition to publishing our workforce demographic data, Brookings has compiled a literature review on what the research tells us about the significance of inclusion and diversity in the workplace. We are confident that following this path will make us a smarter and stronger think tank able to produce better, more relevant, and more effective policy solutions for our country and the world. In taking these and other steps, we look forward to sharing our continued progress in building a more diverse and inclusive Brookings Institution.