Posted: 3/25/2019

Chief Diversity Officers are Set Up to Fail

Orig. pub. March 4, 2019

A new report from executive search consultancy Russell Reynolds helps shed light on the current plight of corporate diversity professionals.

While the now robust business case for diversity has persuaded executive teams to install more diversity leaders and inclusion systems, there are real reasons to believe that their work will not have the impact their bosses and boards expect.

A Leader’s Guide: Finding and Keeping Your Next Diversity Officer surveyed 234 top diversity executives from the S&P 500 cohort, to better determine who they are and what they need.
Bottom line, who they are is tired, and what they need is more money, power, and respect.

Here’s a quick snapshot:

They’re new to the role. While some 47 percent of companies included on the S&P 500 index currently have a chief diversity officer (CDO) or equivalent, just two-thirds of those were hired or promoted into those roles in the past three years.

They don’t have the power they need to make a difference. More than half of those surveyed reported that they don’t have the resources they need to execute new programs and strategies and that they are burdened with additional corporate responsibilities outside of their inclusion work.

They don’t have the data they need to make a difference. Only 35 percent of the CDOs said they had the employee demographic survey information they needed to support their work.

Other leaders aren’t on board. All of the leaders surveyed reported that diversity and inclusion came in last on a list of eight potential business priorities for their companies.

Click through for the rest of the analysis and recommendations, which includes the specific competencies required to be successful in the top diversity job. (Hint, you’re going to need to be a strategic thinker and a very good communicator. Particularly if you’re having trouble getting your hands on your own company’s diversity numbers.)

If your organization is not yet prepared to embrace the positive impact of diversity – like McKinsey done told ya last year, organizations with diverse boards and executive teams were up to 35 percent more likely to outperform their more homogeneous peers – there’s now the negative to consider, too.

Russell Reynold’s analysis also found that companies who had public incidents of racist and sexist “bad executive behavior” in 2017 and 2018 saw an average 7 percent decline in market capitalization in the weeks following the news. The combined market hit was about $4 billion.
That’s a pretty solid business case for having tough conversations about race and equity in the workplace before the invisible hand comes to slap you upside the head.

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