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We Know What You Need: A Chief DEI Officer

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Or rather, you need someone to take over your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy.

Chief DEI Officers (or CDOs for short) have grown in popularity over the last few years. And for good reason! Good diversity management has been linked to higher job satisfaction, less goal ambiguity (Stazyk et al., 2012), decreased turnover (Ward et al., 2021), increased creativity (Egan, 2005), and increased financial performance (Erhardt et al., 2003). However, for many organizations DEI strategy isn’t inherently built into business strategy, so DEI gets put on the backburner. Reversely, your organization may have the best DEI intentions, but without someone leading the charge they may never come into fruition. Having a specific role on your team makes it easier to implement DEI into your business practices and culture.

Other titles for this role or similar roles include:

  • Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion (VP of D&I)

  • Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator

  • Human Resources (HR) - Diversity

  • Director of Diversity Management

  • Senior Leader of DEI

  • Manager of Diversity and Inclusion

While these titles all relate to diversity, equity, and inclusion, they each would have different expectations and levels of responsibility. Ideally, there is a CDO or VP of D&I who reports directly to your Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or at a minimum, reports to your Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). This is to ensure they have the resources and access they need to truly have an impact and that this work is made a priority. Then they would have a team made up of DEI coordinators, Managers of DEI, and so on to help support their efforts. However, if you don't have the capacity to set up an internal DEI team, you can also consider partnering with an external consulting firm to fill this gap or assist your CDO in their efforts.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind...

Simply having a DEI leader won’t solve your problems.

Too often, these roles function as an “honorary role”- meaning that the job exists and it looks good for the organization, but the individual may not have the power to make meaningful changes. The creation of DEI positions needs to be more than a publicity stunt. The individuals in these roles require resources, support, authority and space from the organization to create impact-driven initiatives and business level results .

Here’s what a CDO should do:

  1. Build a comprehensive, long term DEI strategy

  2. Lead organizational change initiatives

  3. Use data to create and meet DEI goals

  4. Hold leaders accountable and influence change

  5. Be willing to ask difficult questions and accept feedback

  6. Question the status quo and be an ally to others

Your DEI strategy could be a waste of resources without someone to oversee it. Your CDO and their team are uniquely positioned to do just that, oversee and implement the organization's DEI strategy, while also providing additional benefits that create even more of a business case for this role. Because the final outcomes not only include the fulfillment of the DEI strategy, but also the trickled down effects of its implementation on the employee workforce as a whole; resulting in increased job satisfaction, lower employee turnover, increased creativity, and increased financial performance across the board.

If you don't know where to start internally, hiring an external consulting firm that specializes in DEI can take some pressure off you while also helping map out the specific CDO role functions that fit your organization's current DEI strategy and needs, even if that strategy doesn't exist yet. Reach out to schedule a a free consultation with us and get the metaphorical CDO ball rolling at your organization.


Kelsie Colley, M.S. is an organizational consultant at Mattingly Solutions and also a PhD candidate at Colorado State University. Learn more about and connect with her here.


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