Chief Diversity Officer: The Key to Corporate Culture Change

Chief Diversity Officer: The Key to Corporate Culture Change

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As the last few months have shown us, the United States is in dire need of a more equitable society for people of all races, ethnicities, religions, and genders.

In response, many corporations purport an interest in creating more diverse workforces.

However, in many instances, companies are falling short. Several measures are used to track the diversity and equity of companies.

In McKinsey & Company studies of more than 300 companies in both 2015 and 2019 found that while men and women held an equal number of entry-level roles, women made up only 20 percent of C-Suites.

Further, in corporate America, 45 percent of people of color and 70 percent of lesbians and gay men said they were the “only ones” in their offices, meaning that they could feel isolated or even like token diversity hires.

While it can be appealing for companies to tout a commitment to diversity, this lip service alone doesn’t create more diverse companies, especially in the C-Suite.

Instead, companies that sincerely want to diversify are hiring Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs). Experts in this role work to alter systemic racism at the corporate level by not only ensuring fair hiring practices but also dismantling biases that may keep women and people of color on the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder.

How to Hire a Chief Diversity Officer

If you’re serious about making your company’s workforce more diverse, here’s what to consider in hiring a Chief Diversity Officer.

Decide why you want to hire a CDO

If you’re planning on hiring a CDO, why now and not five years ago? This is the question you want to consider before hiring. Let potential hires know why you’re focusing on diversity now. Are you recovering from a politically-incorrect snafu? Is your board pushing you in a new direction? Whatever your reasoning, be honest about it to your candidates.

Build out the job requirements

Because of the climate of the United States today, you may be in stiff competition for CDOs. So, consider skills from different fields that may ensure candidates’ success in this position. Your CDO should have a background in creating large-scale change, as well as influencing a range of teams and developing metrics to track success. So, while your ideal hire will have worked in DEI leadership roles before, you may also want to consider candidates with marketing or sales job histories, as well.

Consider the role’s management structure and budget

Changing corporate culture takes money and personnel. According to Harvard Business Review, the CDO should report either to the CEO or to the head of HR. This way, this senior position is more able to create an anti-racist and equitable culture from the people with power at the company, rather than from other employees with less opportunity to create change. If this position sits anywhere lower in the organizational hierarchy, they will lack access to and support from the C-Suite.

Further, the CDO needs a team and a budget to create and deploy strategies for changing corporate culture. Depending on the size of your organization, the CDO should be in charge of $500,000 to two million dollars in funds to develop strategies for diverse recruiting, training, hiring, and building connections in the community.

If you’re not willing to afford your CDO these resources, you may be making a hiring decision to appeal to the public – or your shareholders – rather than out of a sincere desire to reform your corporate culture.

Determine how you’ll consider if your workforce meets diversity and equity marks

Your Chief Diversity Officer is supposed to create meaningful change at your company, not just tokenize employees or host meaningless events. So, how can you ensure an actual shift in corporate culture? By creating metrics that track your success.

For instance, do you want to set diversity targets in new hiring? Will you have your team members sign onto a certain number of DEI pledges? Will you develop a certain number of new policies that are beneficial for women and people of color?

The only way that meaningful change can happen is that if you and your CDO can create these targets and regularly assess if these targets are being met. Otherwise, your CDO may become a figurehead instead of an authentic change agent.


Hiring a Chief Diversity Officer is perhaps the surest way to change your corporate culture. Your CDO and the new team members they bring on shouldn’t just tick diversity boxes. Instead, you should create a diverse workforce to better serve your clients.

A diverse team isn’t just for your corporate image, either. Non-white Americans have a spending power of $3.2 trillion, according to Nielsen, and you’re more likely to tap into new market segments with a corporate team that understands these underserved demographics.

Looking for a new job related to diversity, inclusion, or social responsibility? Browse our curated job boards!

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