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Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices

LCWINS' Ten Process Improvements for Political Appointments in the Next Administration

  1. Be Intentional About How You Define Diversity

All drafts of mission statements, strategic plans, core values, and other documents should include commitments to diversity and inclusion, specifically defining what you mean by diversity and inclusion, and transparent enforcement. We believe national security leadership that reflects the diversity of America will best serve the interests of the American people.


  1. Measure and Track Everything, then Seek Accountability

Track diversity metrics in everything you do: hiring, retention, promotions, benefit usage, performance, job satisfaction, training, etc. Seeing data is the best way to recognize where improvements are needed. A designated individual (Chief Equity Officer) should be accountable for implementing these programs and tracking metrics. Cabinet Secretaries (or equivalent) should ultimately be responsible for progress, or lack thereof, in equity, diversity and inclusion.


  1. If You Want Diverse Hires, Start with Diverse Pools and Diverse Shortlists

If you don’t consider diverse candidates, you cannot hire them. Build in the necessary time to recruit a diverse applicant pool, including by reviewing job descriptions for bias. Studies show that having a single diverse candidate on each shortlist produces similar outcomes as having none, so make sure you are building inclusion into every stage of your hiring process and considering multiple diverse candidates per shortlist.  


  1. Go Beyond Traditional Networks

Diversity of thought is most likely to come from diversity of background and experience, as well as gender, race, and other factors. Diverse candidates are also more likely to come from non-traditional pipelines. Our professional and personal networks are likely to favor people who share our own backgrounds; don’t just use your networks. Reach out and work through many degrees of separation to find well-qualified individuals who may not be known to you already.


  1. Unbias Your Selection Criteria

Certain criteria for hiring may adversely impact one set of people over another. Review your job materials for coded language that deters female and marginalized applicants. List as requirements only those things that are truly required. In evaluating individual applicants, favor a whole-of-candidate approach that weighs everything a candidate brings to the table. Do not assume vetting problems; commit to working through potential “red flags,” especially for diverse candidates.


  1. Choose Senior Leaders Who are Committed to Diversity and Inclusion

Leadership and representation amongst senior appointees are absolutely critical to achieving diversity across federal agencies. As you consider cabinet appointments, make leadership on diversity a core criterion in reviews and selection, and a topic of discussion with candidates. You should advance senior leaders who can demonstrate a record of achievement on building and sustaining inclusive workplaces.


  1. Once You Have a Team, Your Work is Not Done - Support Them!

The best way to attract diverse talent is to show your commitment to supporting them. An organization’s reputation is made quickly. Both strong support and lack of support will be modeled by junior managers, and noted by potential future hires. Ensure an inclusive and respectful work environment for the benefit of your current team and as a signal to future hires.


  1. Organizational Culture Must be Inclusive at Every Level

The values of an organization are expressed in the way people treat each other. Leaders support diversity by vocalizing their support and also by mentoring and sponsoring diverse individuals. Fostering an inclusive culture from the bottom-up is just as important. Do not tolerate behavior in subordinates that would not be acceptable in leadership.


  1. Accommodate Family/Personal Lives and Show Leadership Using those Accommodations

In the COVID era, we are all realizing the need to accommodate personal lives. Do not assume external inputs (e.g. spouses, technology, schools) will address the need for flexibility. Be as flexible as possible about hours and locations and provide leave for care-giving and vacations. Leave policies and other benefits do not help if the culture does not encourage their use. Leaders should signal their support by using these policies themselves. At the same time, do not assume candidates with personal obligations are unable or unwilling to take on certain roles. When hiring, do not punish candidates for previous use of flexible work or breaks in careers. Considering a diverse candidate pool means considering a diverse array of life experiences.  


  1. Provide Training and Follow-Up on Inclusive Practices, Policies and Procedures

Everyone in the organization should understand the resources at their disposal, the policies of the organization, and how the organization plans to tackle unconscious bias. One training is not enough. Follow-up to show your commitment and reinforce the training. Openness to naming and understanding unconscious bias can be a key support for improving your team’s culture of diversity and inclusion.

As its first project, LCWINS has developed a Think Tank Gender Scorecard. Drawing on their years of experience in the national security workforce, think tank management, and gender diversity, members proposed a comprehensive set of standards for think tanks to meet that get to the heart of building and sustaining a gender inclusive workforce. Funding for an Executive Director will allow the group to launch our Think Tank Gender Scorecard as a tool for benchmarking, educating, and advocating with these institutions to improve their gender inclusion.

Think tanks are an important focus for our effort, because their impact extends beyond their institutions to the policy ecosystem at large. They produce ideas for change – and without diverse talent, they cannot generate the best solutions to complex national security challenges. They supply witnesses and briefers for congressional work on foreign policy. They are a major source for senior government positions, and so can drive gender inclusion in national security leadership. Finally, they supply the expert analysts who appear in major media addressing national security and foreign policy questions – thereby shaping the public’s vision of an authoritative national security figure.

Think Tank Gender Scorecard. Think tanks’ impact extend to the policy ecosystem. They produce ideas for change – and without diverse talent, they cannot generate the best solutions to complex national security challenges. They supply witnesses and briefers for congressional work on foreign policy. They are a major source for senior government positions, and so can drive gender inclusion in national security leadership. Finally, they supply the expert analysts who appear in major media addressing national security and foreign policy questions – thereby shaping the public’s vision of an authoritative national security figure.

LCWINS will launch this Scorecard as a tool for benchmarking, educating, and advocating with thinktanks to improve their gender inclusion. Examples of specific measurements include percentage of women in senior leadership positions and availability of paid leave programs.

LCWINS is working to shape the landscape so that well-qualified women have a fighting chance to take on national security leadership in the next Administration (regardless who wins).  We will be providing a database of women leaders who are well-qualified and ready to serve in senior national security appointments. There is no excuse: there are plenty of well-qualified women to fill every role.  Gender diversity should not be hard to achieve. 

LCWINS is also helping interested women prepare to navigate the political appointment process through a series of webinars in August and September.  Through candid conversations with a bipartisan array of experts from Transition teams and Presidential Personnel, as well as many women who have formerly served in senior politically-appointed roles, LCWINS seeks to level the playing field by ensuring that all interested women have the information they need to succeed. Go to our webinar page to learn more!

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