DEI Leadership Ranks Grow—Slowly

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6月 14, 2021
Executive Summary
In recent years, there has been a new addition to the C-suite at many companies—the chief diversity officer (CDO).

Excerpt from the article originally published by SHRM 

Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Mar Hernandez quoted on findings from the new Chief Diversity Officer report: "Positioning Your Chief Diversity Officer For Top Performance​"​​.

Over the past several years, organizations have been placing a greater emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). The Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 only heightened the need for employers to improve their efforts, though many received backlash for doing little more than issuing vague statements. Against this backdrop, some workers—from entry-level employees all the way to the C-suite—are eyeing careers in DE&I with great interest. 

However, many leaders in this space are finding out that pioneering this emerging field is a tall order and are quickly getting burned out. 

Appointing a CDO

In recent years, there has been a new addition to the C-suite at many companies—the chief diversity officer (CDO). But while more organizations are adding these executives, there hasn't been a massive hiring surge even after the events of 2020. 

Executive recruiting firm Russell Reynolds Associates analyzed the S&P 500 and found that the number of companies with a CDO has increased only marginally in recent years, going from 47 percent in 2018 to 52 percent as of February 2021. "It hasn't grown too much," said Mar Hernandez, executive search and leadership consultant for Russell Reynolds. "I think the most shocking thing about the survey is that, despite all that happened and all the social unrest, companies are still behind." 

Furthermore, the report revealed short tenure, high turnover and minimal experience among CDOs. On average, CDOs hold their office for a little less than two years, down from over three years in 2018. Nearly 60 percent leave for other roles, with the majority leaving the CDO path entirely. And just under 18 percent of current CDOs had prior experience in the role, down from 26 percent in 2018. 

Much of the turnover comes from the fact that this is still a new area for many companies, and many CDOs burn out quickly. Unclear and unrealistic expectations often have CDOs wearing multiple hats, trying to improve too many areas of the organization at once. 

Regardless of how experienced the CDO might be, Hernandez noted that companies need to understand that truly committing to DE&I requires a cultural shift across the organization. "It's not only about putting a CDO in place," she said. "You have to start from the board, and you have to have the executive team committed to it. It's a cultural change." 

To access the full article, click here​.