Hogans Fellowship Looks to Build Executive Pipeline
After Democrats lost control of the Michigan House of Representatives following the 2010 November Elections, and House leadership began making office budget cuts, Marvin Yates, a young legislative assistant, realized he wasn’t going to have much to do in his policy position. Instead of just settling in and hoping for the best amidst uncertainty, he convened his own board of directors and sought their advice.
“Board of directors sounds way too formal,” Yates says. “What I did was reach out to more experienced people I’d known and worked with and asked for their advice — a lunch here, a phone call there — and what they said proved true. If I wanted to affect policy, as I did, it was time I moved to Washington, D.C. They were right. Their counsel was spot on, and things have worked out well.”
That might be putting it lightly. Having advanced steadily and rapidly through the ranks of the public affairs profession, the Michigan State alum is now vice president, strategic government relations, for MultiState, where he has been for almost five years. In that role, he also has the unique duty of supporting state legislative affairs for the NFL. Before that he worked at CTIA and the American Insurance Association and another state legislative tracking firm in the Metro D.C. area.
So when Yates was approached about being a mentor for the Foundation for Public Affairs’ new Hogans Fellowship program, he said, “Of course. Because I know from my own experience how important relationship-building can be. There might be plenty of mentoring programs for people starting out in the profession, but this one is for people who are already in it and maybe have reached midlevel or midcareer but are eager to move up.”
The Hogans Fellowship program was developed with a focus on the retention and advancement of emerging leaders in the public affairs profession. The inaugural class of 12 Fellows was announced in April. Named for Mack Hogans, the Council’s first Black board chair, the program is designed to support emerging professionals from diverse backgrounds as they prepare for leadership tracks. “The year-long cohort program will provide skills training, mentoring and valuable networking opportunities for a diverse set of public affairs professionals,” says Erica Harris, manager of the Council’s social impact practice.
Yates has done what he calls “a lot of speaking to high school and college groups, making them aware of the public affairs profession so they will consider it as a career. I see this as a long-term thing — the establishment of a cohort that continues to grow, so people in it can help each other as they advance.”
Lauren Tyler, another mentor in the program, expresses similar sentiments. “I’m excited to participate because I know how important it is to see people who look like you in senior leadership positions,” says Tyler, chief of staff at Adfero. “It is important that we help them see that there is a place for them in positions of leadership, giving them a realistic sense that they can access these positions and how to prepare themselves to take their places in their organization’s leadership.” Tyler calls it “an honor to be a resource to other young public affairs professionals on a similar path of advancement.”
Hogans Fellows Mentor Adrienne Marks, PAC director with Visa and a recent recipient of the Council’s Volunteer of the Year Award, notes that the “mentoring aspect of the Hogans Fellows path to leadership is vital. Volunteering and being actively involved in the Council and the profession has been a priority for me in my career, and this is another important way to give back. We’ve got a talented and inspiring cohort of Fellows, and it’s critical that they know they have the guidance and resources from myself and others to help them on this journey.”
Help for Recruiters
“Opportunities like the Hogans Fellowship program will greatly benefit me and my peers in the executive search world,” says Julian Ha, partner with executive search firm Heidrick and Struggles International Inc., and a member of the Council’s Social Impact Committee. “As recruiters, we are always looking for experienced, diverse candidates to present to our clients. When a client requires a candidate with 15 years of experience, we cannot send them one with five years of experience. Unfortunately, in the government affairs business, there are very few African American, Asian American and Hispanic public affairs professionals at senior levels. The Hogans Fellowship is an important step in increasing the number of candidates as we create the next generation of senior public affairs professionals. I commend the Council for this program and for encouraging member organizations to create their own versions of this program.”
It’s a big challenge but one that must be addressed. “Without mentorship programs like the Hogans Fellowship, retention is very low,” Ha says. “Organizations need to provide training, mentoring and networking opportunities to prevent high rates of departure. I see this as the onset — helping create a community of professionals that will continue to support each other as they advance in their careers. We have to ‘expand the tent,’ so to speak. This isn’t just the right thing to do ethically, it’s also good for business.”
Revolving Door Effect
Retention of promising young people of diverse backgrounds is of mounting concern throughout numerous professions. In the insurance industry, to offer but one example, Doug Bailey writes in InsuranceNewsNet, “the hiring rate of Black employees … is double that of other employee groups,” but the rate at which they depart is “significantly higher than other groups,” which baffles HR experts.
“This trend is obviously concerning as it’s creating a revolving-door effect for Black talent over time,” Angela Berg, Mercer’s global diversity, equity and inclusion consulting leader, told InsuranceNewsNet. In other fields as well, “quiet quitting” seems more pronounced among these groups than elsewhere. As “commitment and loyalty to the organization wane … the desire for career advancement no longer exists,” writes Rosina L. Racioppi, president and CEO of WOMEN Unlimited Inc., in Chief Learning Officer magazine. “At a time when a diverse corporate pipeline is both much needed and much depleted, the long-term consequences can be dire.”
The Hogans Fellowship should help prevent such an outcome. Amy Meli, executive director of the Foundation for Public Affairs, adds, “It will do better than that, however, by offering small group mentorship sessions with more experienced public affairs professionals and access to executive-level educational opportunities, among other features of the program.”
According to Harris, “If this program does what we believe it can, it will not only help build that pipeline for professionals in our field but will remain a strong presence in coming years, strengthening the participants as they prepare the next generation, ensuring that diverse voices, talents and perspectives are heard.”
Hear what the Hogans Fellows have to say about the future of public affairs.