How COVID-19 is Impacting the Market Systems Development Talent Pipeline
The detrimental impact of COVID-19 on the workforce participation and career ambition of women and ethnic or racial minority groups is well documented across many sectors, but there is notably limited evidence from the international development sector. USAID, as part of a larger set of learning initiatives around social inclusion on the Feed the Future Market Systems and Partnerships (MSP) Activity, sought to remedy this oversight by investing in understanding the specific ways in which the global pandemic is impacting the current and future pipeline of senior leaders on market systems development (MSD) activities.
In the development sector, the diversity of activity leadership is important and for MSD activities, it is essential. Systemic thinking inherently requires and values diversity. In addition, the highly adaptive and facilitative nature of most MSD activities means that senior leaders can have an outsized influence on the activity strategy and partnerships, which in turn may influence who accesses activity-facilitated services and benefits. To ensure MSD activities empower a diverse range of market actors and achieve broad-based and equitable impact, diversity of perspectives and experiences on the senior management team is essential.
This research tested the hypothesis that COVID-19 has disproportionately negatively impacted women’s workforce participation and the career ambition of both senior managers and aspiring senior managers on MSD activities. The research methodology combined a literature review with primary data collection from an online survey, followed by in-depth interviews with a subset of survey respondents.
Researchers found that the impacts of COVID-19 on MSD practitioners, in particular women, are wide-ranging and, if not addressed, will have a negative impact on the diversity of future senior leaders. The brief presents the gendered findings of the research, while the full study includes a deeper analysis of intersectional considerations, including gender, professional position, minority identification, presence of dependents and status as a cooperating country national or expatriate/headquarters staff.