The evolution of the chief diversity officer
DEIDiversityDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
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September 19, 2021
DEIDiversityDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
Executive Summary
Tina Shah Paikeday shares how organizations can help set up CDOs for success.

Excerpt from the article originally published by Financial Times

Financial Times spoke with Tina Shah Paikeday on the role of the chief diversity officer and how their organizations can support them.


The protests following George Floyd’s murder last year forced many businesses to recognise their shortcomings on diversity and inclusion. The effect was immediate: research by the Royal Bank of Canada last year showed 40 per cent of S&P 500 companies discussed diversity policies during earnings calls in the second quarter of 2020, up from 6 per cent the same time the previous year.

One result of the internal and external debates — and heightened by the growing inequalities at work exposed by the pandemic — is that more organisations are appointing a chief diversity officer. The FBI recruited its first in April, and Harvard Business School did so in June. 


Tina Shah Paikeday, global head of diversity equity and inclusion advisory services at Russell Reynolds Associates, a recruitment agency, observes that increasing numbers of CDOs have been given larger budgets and teams, a marked shift from solo operators working within HR departments.

While CDOs are in demand, companies may not be prepared to hear what they have to say, leaving some diversity heads feeling overwhelmed or sidelined. 


The role’s difficulties 

Turnover is high among diversity professionals. A report by Russell Reynolds found that the average tenure of a chief diversity officer in the US is 1.8 years in 2021, down from 3.1 years in 2018, partly indicative of poaching. “Under pressure to fill these positions, many companies are turning to executives who have never held the role before.”

Shah Paikeday says the person in a CDO role needs support. “You need an explicit onboarding process, to help prepare them for the executive role. They often are the only woman or minority, and often a double minority role.”

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