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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

A Data Scientist’s Guide to Ending the Wage Gap

More than 20 years that have passed since the National Committee on Pay Equity first called for action on the gender wage gap. But not much has changed. Women continue to earn less than men, and research shows that women often have less successful salary negotiations, sacrificing tens of thousands of dollars in future earnings. As a woman who works in the tech industry, I often find myself asking: What will it take to truly drive change and close the gender wage gap?

For me, the answer is data.

After I graduated with a PhD in Astrophysics from UC Berkeley, I was interviewing for a job as a data scientist in San Francisco. My prospective new boss said, “I know you make about $14,000 a year as a graduate student at Berkeley, I’m going to offer you more than that.” And he did! Imagine my excitement when my starting salary was much more than my graduate stipend.

At the time, I had no idea what I should be making, nor did I know how to negotiate, as my last “job” had been in a completely different industry. What’s more, I had no other comparable offers to use...

The Secret to Staying Off the High-Risk List

Some say getting placed on the Government Accountability Office’s high-risk list is like the 1977 Eagles’ hit, “Hotel California,” where “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” But in fact, over a third of agency programs once placed on the list have been removed. What’s the secret?

Lessons summarized in a new IBM Center for the Business of Government report by Donald Kettl, one of the nation’s most insightful observers of government operations, suggest you can get off the list. Kettl took a look back over the past 25 years of GAO reports on programs it had placed on the high-risk list to see if he could detect any patterns. He explored how programs got on the list in the first place, what they did over the years to get off, and, based on these lessons, he offers advice on how to avoid getting listed in the first place.

“Understanding what can go wrong, how it can matter, what steps can make things right, and how to minimize risk ... can provide invaluable insights for improving government,” Kettl writes. Such insights will be especially timely for agencies since later this month, the...

How to Stay True To Your Values at Work

When you’re clear on what you stand for, it’s easier to weather a sea of distractions. Most people are fairly clear about their personal values, but sometimes it’s difficult to stay true to those values, especially at work. When I interviewed Hyrum W. Smith for his latest book The 3 Gaps (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016), he described a simple process he uses to help people keep their values foremost in their mind.

First of all, Smith says, everyone has a set of governing values, whether they realize it or not. Interestingly, he says the exact nature of those values doesn’t matter. “I never suggest what those values ought to be. That’s none of our business.” Smith has been teaching people how to verbalize their values for over 40 years and he finds that the themes of family, physical and mental well-being, financial wellness, education, and integrity are those most often mentioned. Of course, your values list may differ and that’s OK.

To help you identify your values, Smith advises you create a “social constitution.” He says it’s a simple three-step process:

  1. Write down your governing values.
  2. Write a statement describing what those values mean...

For the Future Success of Space Exploration, We Need More Female Astronauts

Even in the final frontier of outer space, where the indignities and injustices of daily life would seem to float away before the vastness of the universe, women are bumping into a glass ceiling.

Out of more than 500 space travelers over the past century, women make up only about 10 percent, according to figures from the NASA and the European Space Agency. Not one of them has flown beyond low-Earth orbit, a region of space between 111 and 1,242 miles from Earth’s atmosphere.

Compare that to the 24 men whose governments have sent them a full 384,400 kilometers to the moon. And while NASA’s current astronaut class is 50 percent female, that’s far from the case in space agencies around the world, especially in Europe: Over the past 38 years, Germany has sent 11 men into space and zero women. The European Astronaut Corps, currently a 14-member team, includes just one woman.

“One reason, especially for German women, is that women only apply for a job if they are really 100 percent sure that they fit all the criteria. They’re very risk adverse with regards to applying for something where men would say...

What Everyone Gets Wrong About Grit

Grit is the combination of perseverance and passion, a term made popular by psychologist Angela Duckworth whose new book on the topic was published earlier this month (May 3).

Numerous stories on the book link the quality to success:

What quality do the most successful people share? True grit

Is ‘Grit’ really the key to success?”

Is grit the true secret of success?”

Duckworth does the same in her TED talk, titled “The key to success? Grit.” But since it was delivered to an audience eager to focus on its implications for achievement, Duckworth believes her overall message about personal growth was diluted. “I think the misunderstanding—or, at least, one of them—is that it’s only the perseverance part that matters,” Duckworth told New York Magazine. “But I think that the passion piece is at least as important.”

In addition to being seen as a means to achieving success, grit has also been oversimplified in the debate about IQ vs. hard work. (Both play a part when it comes to success. So does luck.) The real takeaway is far less sexy: Grit is a reminder to pursue endeavors for their own sake—especially ifyou might fail. An...