Introducing the Local Government Diversity Dashboard

Measuring diversity among local government leaders

Quote: what gets measured gets improved.


There's a quote that says “what gets measured, gets improved.” For too long, local government leaders have talked about improving workforce diversity without fully understanding the scope of the problem.

That's why I'm excited to introduce the Diversity Dashboard -- a new tool from ELGL (in partnership with OpenGov) that measures the gender, race, age, and veteran status of local government leaders across America. While some local government associations collect diversity information about their members, this Dashboard is the first nation-wide analysis of diversity among local government leaders across all forms of government.

We define “local government” as an incorporated, service-providing town, township, city, or county. "Local government" leaders is defined as Chief Administrative Officers (CAO) and Assistant Chief Administrative Officers (ACAO). "CAO" is defined as the town or city manager, administrator, or clerk in a council-manager form of government; or a mayor or commission chair in a strong mayor form of government. And "ACAO" is defined as the assistant to the CAO.

The data featured in the Dashboard was collected between February and June using this survey. We distributed the survey via our ELGL grassroots network, and so far nearly 2,000 local government leaders have completed it.

Intriguing insights are uncovered when this data is cross tabulated. For example, the younger the CAO, the more likely they are to be a person of color. Here is what else we discovered (click on the pie charts to explore the interactive data within OpenGov):


Ethnicity of local government leaders

As you can see in the pie chart above, a majority of survey respondents (66.73 percent) are caucasian. Only 1.87 percent are Black or African American, and merely 1.45 percent are Hispanic.


Gender of local government leaders

Nearly half of respondents (46.80 percent) are male. However, 26.51 percent of respondents didn't include their gender. A quarter (25.97 percent) are female.


Age of local government leaders

It's staggering that nearly half (44.75 percent) of respondents are fifty-years-old or older. Only 8.16 percent are between the ages of 21 and 39.

The term 'silver tsunami' is used often in local government to describe the looming mass retirement of the Baby Boomer generation. These insights illustrate just how dire the situation is.

Veteran Status

Veteran status of local government leaders

Only 8.39 percent of respondents are veterans. Yet, 26.51 percent chose not to answer the question.

What's Next?

Our initial findings many not surprise anyone; they simply confirm what many have long suspected about the lack of diversity among local government leaders. But the Dashboard is nonetheless an important step in the right direction because as I mentioned earlier, "what gets measured, gets improved."

But that doesn't mean change will be easy. Some of our graduate student Research Coordinators received strongly worded, negative responses from local government leaders who don’t believe there’s a diversity problem. Fortunately, countless more leaders have `told us they believe the Dashboard will help advance more women and people of color into leadership positions and make local government leaders more representative of the people they serve.

Here is some of the positive feedback we received:

Leana Johnson
Scott Wayman
Marc Ott
Steve Powers

The more local government leaders who take the survey, the bigger the dataset, the better our understanding of what the local government leadership landscape looks like. So please take the survey if you haven't already! And be sure to share what you're learned when reviewing the dashboard.

To ensure that what gets measured gets improved sooner than later, I'm excited to share that ELGL will host a nationwide, charrette-style meeting in the fall of 2018 to review the Dashboard findings, and develop actionable recommendations to help local government leaders increase diversity. We're still in the planning phase, but if you'd like more information, or you'd like to attend, please contact us.

Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who supported our kickstarter campaign to help fund the project, and to the amazing graduate student Research Coordinators who compiled the data!