If you visit one of our country's public school districts, you're far more likely to find a student of color sitting in a classroom than to find a leader of color running that classroom, school, or district.
Nationwide, 40% of American students are students of color – a percentage that grows when focusing on large, urban school districts.1 Yet across the nation, people of color represent only 17% of teachers and principals.2 A mere 11% of school board members are people of color.3 And at the highest level of leadership in school districts, just 6% of superintendents are black or Latino.4
These contrasts are stark and troubling. Without leadership that represents the students they serve, results from our school systems haven't improved.
Simply put, diverse leadership is critical to improving results for all students.
Here, we can take a cue from the private sector, which has recognized and embraced the importance of diversity in the workforce because it impacts the bottom line. With a diverse workforce, businesses improve their financial results, competitive advantage, and organizational performance.
Diversity within an organization can also lead to innovation and better market results. In a 2013 report, "Innovation, Diversity, and Market Growth," the Center for Talent Innovation highlights the importance of "two-dimensional" (2D) diversity within an organization, where leaders exhibit at least three kinds of both inherent diversity (such as gender, race, age, and other demographics we're born with) and acquired diversity (such as cultural fluency, generational savvy, gender smarts, and other learned characteristics).
2D leaders are more inclined to cherish difference, embrace disruption, and foster a "speak-up" culture. They champion innovation by unlocking the potential of their inherently diverse workforce, helping take game-changing solutions to market. Along the way, they enter new markets and increase their market share.
At companies with 2D diverse leaders, employees are twice as likely to report that their team takes risks (40% vs. 21%), and 48% of employees at these companies also report that their company captured a new market, compared to just 33% of employees at companies without 2D diversity.
An inherently diverse team is also significantly more likely to generate ideas that address unmet needs of their end-users because they "match their market." And if those teams are led by 2D diverse leaders, their ideas are more likely to be valued and subsequently, deployed.
Diverse environments breed innovation. And innovation is needed in the education sector to produce breakthrough outcomes for children. The sector grapples with complex challenges and dismal statistics, like less than 20% of low-income students of color are considered "proficient" in math or language arts by eighth grade. Students need better solutions, driven by leaders who understand their context and can find methods that work.
The education sector is hungry for diverse leaders. Recognizing the necessity of diversity to solve education's most pressing challenges, and bringing in more diverse leaders to the sector is critical for organizations like Education Pioneers, who share our vision that extraordinary leadership can transform results for students.
Education Pioneers was founded on the model that diverse leaders working together will deliver high-quality educational opportunities for students. More than 30% of our Alumni are black and Latino, nearly 20% of our Alumni are the first in their families to graduate from college, and 20% of our black and Latino Alumni working in the education sector hold senior management leadership roles.
We'll continue to attract these leaders into the education sector and support their career development, and also work to advance the sector's focus on diversity at large.
In partnership with Koya Leadership Partners, we plan to release a report on the state of diversity practices across the education sector this fall.
Together with Koya, we recently spoke at the NewSchools Venture Fund Summit's Communities of Practice Day, sharing our perspective on diversity and offering new organizational audit tools. These tools can help any education organization assess their own diversity practices against best practices, and pave the way for a comprehensive diversity strategy to recruit, develop, and retain diverse and talented leaders.
Framework for Your Organization's Diversity Practices