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The Need For ICAP


WHILE THE POPULATION OF THE UNITED STATES has become increasingly diverse in recent years and will be more so in the near future, the senior leadership of the country is still overwhelming white and disproportionately male, according to US government statistics and studies of nonprofit and for-profit institutions.  With only 57.8 % of the current US population non-Hispanic white, 77 % of the overall Senior Executive Service (SES) in the US Government is non-Hispanic White and more than 85% of the SES at the US State Departments i4 non-Hispanic white.  In NGOs, 84% of Board members and 79% of executive directors are non-Hispanic white.  In the private sector, 86% of CEOs and 91% of the Chairs of the Boards at Fortune 500 companies are non-Hispanic white.


This underrepresentation is and should be a cause of considerable concern.  We know that for leadership to be legitimate, it should reflect the diversity of the population it leads.  In addition, beyond that more or less moral argument, we also know from an increasing number of studies that diverse leadership produces more carefully considered and smarter decisions.  More diversity means more creativity, it means more innovation, it means better adaptability to a changing world.  If we want the United States to survive and to thrive in the world, we need leadership that reflects the diversity of the American population.  We don’t have that now because we haven’t made an adequate effort to bring it about.  Our future as a country depends on our ensuring that we create a new and diverse leadership, drawing on the talents of our entire population.


We tend to think of this as a “pipeline” problem---not enough underrepresented youth choosing professional careers.  It is partly that.  This is why ICAP launched an outreach program called the Global Access Pipeline (GAP) project (see  This is a consortium of organizations and individuals seeking to improve the quality and diversity of US leadership in international affairs. GAP links K-12 programs, college level and graduate level programs, mid-career programs like ICAP, and policy and research institutions (e.g., CFR, Carnegie, Brookings, CSIS, State) that seek greater diversity. Through collaboration, we expect to enhance the effectiveness of the "pipeline" and thus increase the pool of talented and credentialed professionals.


This deals with only part of the problem, however.  For many years, programs for the underrepresented have been producing a larger and larger pool of professionals but the senior leadership of the United States in international affairs has changed only at an agonizingly slow rate. There has been a false assumption that with a larger pool of candidates and reduced explicitly discriminatory practices, leadership would quickly come to reflect the diversity of the US population. Not enough attention has been given to less obvious obstacles---the absence of mentors and role models, professionals of color often being outside the “right” professional and social networks, the absence of support networks, continued institutionalized discriminatory practices and other problems. The advancement from career pool and initial hiring to senior leadership contains some of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in the diversity pipeline.


Many institutions have programs geared toward bringing new recruits into their organizations but few have dedicated training and resources that facilitate their talented middle level managers who are women and minorities moving into senior leadership positions. ICAP is one of the few diversity pipeline programs fulfilling this role for a broad audience of mid-career professionals, across lines of gender, race or ethnicity and employment sector.  ICAP was intended to create mid-career support and advice that would help to deal with the many obstacles faced on the path to senior leadership.

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