For Minnesota to be its best, we need talented leaders from all backgrounds to make our institutions work well for all.

Leaders shape our institutions. They define organizational culture and make decisions that have long-standing and wide-ranging impact on people and communities. It matters, therefore, that these leaders are reflective of and responsive to the diversity of those they employ and serve.

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what we have learned so far

One in four leaders in Minnesota is a woman. Given that half of all Minnesota adults are women, we would need to see nearly twice as many women in positions of leadership in order to reach parity.

The share of women who are leaders has increased incrementally over the last 15 years – from 18% to 27% – and this increase has been led almost entirely by trends in the business sector. Still, across sectors, women’s representation in business leadership lags behind their representation in nonprofit and government leadership.

Chart showing that although women make up half of adult Minnesotans, only 1 in 4 are in leadership positions.


Data to watch

Twelve percent of Minnesota’s leaders are Black, Indigenous, or people of Color (BIPOC), compared to 17% of all Minnesotans. That’s a five percentage point gap to reach representative parity among leaders. Ten years ago, that gap stood at about 9 percentage points. It is too soon to say we are seeing a larger shift toward representative leadership by race, but the trend may be starting to point in that direction.

Trend line chart showing that Minnesota's leadership gap by race may be narrowing. Leaders who are BIPOC rose from 4% (2007-2011) to 12% (201-2021). During the same time period, all adults who are BIPOC rose from 12% to 17%.


Government leaders in Minnesota tend to “look like” the people they employ and serve across multiple characteristics, including race, gender, and disability status. The government sector faces its own challenges, sitting at a particularly critical point in needing to transition leadership to younger generations. But it may also be true that the government sector has been able to shift more nimbly with demographic shifts because leaders are elected by the people they employ and serve.

In fact, in our survey of business leaders, 90 percent of government leaders had been elected into their positions. The most common pathway to leadership in the nonprofit sector was external hire (65% of nonprofit leaders), while the most common pathway to leadership in the business sector was promotion from within (49% of business leaders). Compared to the election process, these latter pathways to leadership may have unique barriers that keep qualified adults from leadership positions. Our Leadership Toolkit has several useful tips for what can help bolster diversity, equity, and inclusion in hiring and promotions.

Chart showing that most common pathways to leadership vary across sectors. 90% of government leaders are elected, 65% of nonprofit leaders are hired externally, and 49% of business leaders are promoted from within.


Media requests

Sheri Booms Holm
Senior Communications Specialist  

oneAnalyzing census data

Minnesota Compass researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey to provide estimates of the number of top executives and elected leaders in Minnesota by gender, race, age, education, wage level, disability, veteran status, and more.

twoSurveying local leaders to learn more

Because the national census data is incomplete in many areas, Wilder Research partnered with League of Minnesota Cities, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and Minnesota Council of Nonprofits to collect and analyze detailed data on the characteristics of leaders in local government, nonprofits, and businesses across the state.

Inspiration and resources to spark change

Learn how organizations and communities are championing diverse and inclusive leadership, and explore our leadership resources.

Illustration of five diverse people interacting with each other. Includes one person in a wheelchair, a woman in a hijab, and three people of color.

Ramsey County Inclusive Workplaces Cohort

The Inclusive Workplaces Cohort is the nation’s first organization dedicated exclusively to equipping public and private sector employers and policymakers to close racial employment, income, and wealth gaps and catalyze inclusive economic growth. 

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100 Rural Women

100 Rural Women is a nonprofit and non-partisan organization committed to building leadership and confidence through networking, mentoring, education, and civic engagement.

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The Bakken Museum

The Bakken Museum is committed to an inclusive work environment "where people can bring their full identities, where people want to stay."

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Minnesota Alliance on Problem Gambling

"Problem gambling treatment historically is designed for the white culture, but we know people from all our communities are affected by gambling disorder," says MNAPG Executive Director Susan Sheridan Tucker. Her organization is changing that by cultivating leaders and service providers of color so every Minnesotan receives culturally relevant treatment.

City of Richfield sign

City of Richfield

The City of Richfield's Enriching Leadership Academy brings together a cohort of developing leaders with those already in leadership positions for both formal and informal learning opportunities.

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The Anderson Center

Inclusive leadership at the Anderson Center in Red Wing means listening to and making new ideas happen, such as its successful Deaf artist residency program.

Graywolf Press intern at desk

Graywolf Press

Professional growth conversations and a new fellowship for people of color starting out in the publishing industry are fostering a culture of inclusion at Graywolf Press.

ALLETE employees in front of mural


The publicly held energy company takes a broad view of who is considered a leader and exposes a broad variety of people to important concepts in, and critical skills for, leadership. The company was recently recognized for the number of women on its board and executive team.

Downtown Minneapolis skyline

City of Minneapolis

A new leadership development model, a performance review system that integrates cultural competency, and employee resource groups reflect the City of Minneapolis’ intentional commitment to equity.

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Charities Review Council

Charities Review Council leaders developed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toolkit for nonprofits and doubled down on its own equity efforts.

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Restorative Justice Community Action 

Restorative Justice Community Action depends on deep and authentic relationships to build a diverse pool of facilitators for its work to repair the harm caused by crime or conflict.

Minnesota Compass and the Bush Foundation teamed up to provide a holistic picture of institutional leadership in our state and how our institutions are developing the talent Minnesota needs.

Demographic data on who holds leadership positions in business, government, and nonprofits in Minnesota have not been readily available or easily accessible, nor has information about what is helping foster more equitable and inclusive leadership.


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who leads

We will research Minnesota’s leaders in the business, government and nonprofit sectors

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Share promising practices

We will uncover how sectors develop the talent Minnesota needs 

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We aim to inspire employers to foster more equitable and inclusive leadership

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We will track leadership data on a regular basis

About the leadership surveys

Wilder Research and Bush Foundation partnered with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce to survey business leaders and partnered with the League of Minnesota Cities to survey government leaders.

The survey of government leaders was open from Feb. 19 – March 16, 2020. Of the 4,026 government leaders invited to complete the survey, 1,116 responded, for a response rate of 28%.

The survey of business leaders was open from July 24 – September 1, 2020. Of the 1,064 business leaders invited to complete the survey, 135 responded, for a response rate of 13%.

Wilder Research and Bush Foundation partnered with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits to survey leaders. Chief executive officers (CEOs) and executive directors (EDs) were invited to participate in a demographic survey to supplement estimates of people serving as nonprofit leaders across Minnesota.

The survey of nonprofit leaders was open from March 27 – August 24, 2020. Of the 3,722 nonprofits invited to complete the survey, 369 responded, for a response rate of 10%.

The nonprofit sector included respondents who identify as nonbinary, women, men, and individuals who opted to self-describe their gender identity. The government sector included respondents who identify as transgender, nonbinary, women, men, and individuals who opted to self-describe their gender identity. The business sector only included respondents who identify as women and men.

See the survey data.


Fast facts


are leaders of color

People of color are underrepresented among Minnesota leaders across business, government, and nonprofit sectors.

1 in 4

leaders are women

While half of Minnesota's adults are women, only 24% of leaders across the state are women.


of government leaders are 65+

About 1 in 5 government leaders are older adults, compared to 1 in 10 business and nonprofit leaders.