A new CEO for McKinsey Social Initiative

McKinsey Social Initiative (MSI) today announced that Helene D. Gayle will be its first CEO. Helene is currently finishing her nearly decade-long tenure as president and CEO of CARE USA and will join MSI, the independent not-for-profit organization founded by McKinsey, in July.

MSI was founded to develop innovative approaches to global problems. Its unique model leverages relationships across the public and private sectors to create, test, and scale new ways to address the world’s most pressing issues. Generation, MSI’s first program, is a global youth-employment program that aims to connect 1 million young people with jobs over the next five years in India, Kenya, Mexico, Spain, and the United States.

Helene brings a deep understanding of how business, government, and philanthropy can shape what’s possible when working on global challenges—thanks to more than 30 years of her work on global issues with CARE USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Helene’s career has spanned from the doctor’s office to the highest levels of international development. As a young pediatrician, she saw how her patients' well-being was linked to wider societal issues and opted to pursue public health. In 1984, she joined the CDC, where she pioneered the domestic and international work on HIV and eventually became the director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention; she also achieved the rank of Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General in the U.S. Public Health Service.

As the director of the Gates Foundation’s HIV, TB, and Reproductive Health program, Helene continued her work on HIV, funding an HIV prevention and treatment program in Botswana that was the first to show that treatment could reach people even in resource-poor settings. President Obama tapped her to chair the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in 2010.

Helene Gayle
Helene on a trip with CARE to India Photo © Brendan Bannon/CARE
Helene Gayle

At CARE USA, Helene has worked with partners in the private sector, governments, and nongovernmental organizations to expand CARE's reach to more than 97 million people in 2014. She’s been recognized by Forbes, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, and other publications as a top thinker and leader. She received the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award in 2012.

In 2008, Helene told Newsweek: “You reach a point in life where you know you may have more years behind you than ahead of you. I want to know that I’m using each day in ways that are meaningful to me. I want to feel that each day is better than the day before and that I’m happy to be waking up and have the opportunity to do the things I do.”

When she joins MSI later this year, Helene will focus on building the organization and supporting the growth of Generation. In a world where 300 million young people are unemployed or underemployed and 40 percent of employers say they struggle finding qualified entry-level candidates, the program aims to create a replicable, scalable training approach that demonstrates a return on investment to both employers and young people. The resulting program will be made available to anyone who wants to use it anywhere in the world—to ultimately reach tens of millions of young people.

Generation is a natural outgrowth of McKinsey’s work in education and education to employment. Mona Mourshed, who leads our firm’s global Education Practice and spearheads Generation, says of Helene: “She brings a tremendous set of experiences across the public and social space, and so we thought that she would be an ideal founding CEO for MSI.”

Generation will operate pilot programs in all five countries by the end of 2015. Pilots launched in the United States and Spain in October 2014. Both feature two- to three-month skills boot camps for young people, including help with supportive services, such as transportation and child care, and mentoring during the first three months of job placement—the make-or-break period in most jobs.

In Spain, the first Generation students are learning digital professions, such as web development and digital marketing. In the United States, Generation students in Pittsburgh and Wilmington are training to be certified nursing assistants. While it is early days, the program has already had a big win: 100 percent of graduates in Pittsburgh passed the state certification exam, compared to the national average of 50 percent. In addition, MSI and Generation recently received a $3.2 million grant from Walmart to expand the US pilots into retail professions.

In one young student’s words, the program has been “a wonderful stepping stone for a person like me who didn’t have any help. . .this is something to change my life.”

Watch this space for more stories about Generation, and follow the initiative on Facebook and Twitter.

Never miss a story

Stay updated about McKinsey news as it happens