Mapping the Mosaic: A Closer Look at Diversity in the Halls of Power

Picture of Research Team

From left: Kevin Young (Political Science), Brendan O'Connor (Computer Science), and Seth Goldman (Communication)

Calls for greater diversity in powerful organizations have been increasing. But how can we know whether efforts in this direction are working? This project aims to evaluate diversity within powerful organizations by investigating the wider network ties that underly and connect them. In doing so, we aim to uncover whether wider patterns of stratification are being perpetuated throughout the upper echelons of society as a whole.

Calls for greater diversity and representation in powerful organizations – think corporations, think tanks, and a variety of international organizations – have been increasing. Yet, existing efforts in this direction, and the research evaluating them, often amount to little more than tallying up diversity in head counts of CEOs and board rooms.

What if this approach is missing the forest for the trees? How can we know whether the diversity efforts of these organizations are working? And how can we know that they add up to real change throughout the entire organization, and are not merely performative or even tokenizing?

This project aims to achieve a wider and more thorough evaluation of diversity within powerful organizations by investigating a  subtle but critical component of professional life: network ties. By modeling not merely the individuals at the top of these organizations, but the networks that underlie and connect them, we aim to uncover whether wider patterns of stratification are being perpetuated throughout the upper echelons of society as a whole.

We will approach this issue with a broad brush, examining powerful organizations across the world. Classifying individuals by race and gender categories, particularly across different cultures, is a difficult task – race in particular is based on social perceptions, not tangible characteristics, and varies widely across cultures. With the help of IDS funding, we are surmounting these challenges using a variety of innovative data collection and analysis methods, including crowd-sourcing strategies.

The insights gleaned from our study are poised to make a significant contribution to the broader initiatives for social justice in positions of power, laying the groundwork for subsequent grant applications to institutions such as the NSF and the Russell Sage Foundation. By shedding light on the intricate dynamics of leadership diversity, our project aspires to inform and inspire a new wave of initiatives aimed at fostering inclusivity at the highest levels of power and decision-making.