A Global Look at the Chief Diversity Officer Landscape

DEILeadership StrategiesCareer TransitionsCareer AdviceDiversity & CultureCulture RiskLeadershipHuman Resources OfficersExecutive SearchDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
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April 21, 2023
14 min read
DEILeadership StrategiesCareer TransitionsCareer AdviceDiversity & CultureCulture RiskLeadershipHuman Resources OfficersExecutive SearchDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
We explore how boards and C-suite leaders can find, appoint and retain CDOs amidst a changing socio-political landscape.


Since 2018, Russell Reynolds Associates has monitored the number of chief diversity officers (CDOs) among S&P 500 companies. This year, we ventured beyond the US to develop a global view on the state of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) leadership across Europe and Asia Pacific. This data becomes especially important as we face an economic downturn, which has already seen global companies announcing large staff layoffs and cuts to DE&I functions. Our data offers insights for C-suite leaders and boards who are serious about finding, appointing, and retaining their CDOs and keeping their DE&I agenda alive. We also provide a behind the scenes glimpse into select CDO success stories that inspire best practices in this field.

This report covers:

  • Overall CDO representation (the term CDO is used broadly to encompass all senior DE&I leaders) across the US, Asia Pacific, and Europe.
  • Average tenure of CDOs within these regions
  • CDOs and their success stories
  • A look towards future priorities


The Chief Diversity Officer landscape

Against the backdrop of evolving responsibilities, fluctuating commitment, and elusive reporting lines, CDOs have not always had an easy mandate. And yet, the critical nature of this role is reinforced by the growing presence of CDOs across the globe. Our analysis finds that the US continues to take the lead in terms of overall CDO representation, followed by Europe and Asia Pacific.

But the support CDOs receive remains inconsistent. In our attempt to offer a global perspective, we can’t forget that DE&I maturity in a given market—and, by extension, the level of investment in a DE&I function—matters. That’s why in the US, our most mature DE&I market, we find a high proportion of DE&I leaders at the chief or senior/vice president levels. Comparatively, in evolving markets like Asia Pacific and Europe, DE&I leadership levels fluctuate from CDOs to DE&I directors and managers. The leveling of a DE&I leader matters because it indicates whether that leader has a seat at the top table and is able to influence key stakeholders. Having influence over the executive team and board turns ambitious objectives into measurable progress. With DE&I demand growing across Asia and Europe, it’s likely that we can expect the number and level of DE&I leaders to increase. For now, while we are not comparing exact counterparts, it’s helpful to track DE&I leaders in Asia and Europe as an indication of how the CDO market in these regions is evolving.

Source: RRA propriety analysis of publicly available DEI leader data across key indexes

A deeper dive into the data by region shows some interesting parallels, as well as some key differences.


The US

Source: RRA S&P500 CDO Analysis 2023, n=878.


For the S&P 500, CDO representation grew by 5 percentage points between 2018-2020, and 21 percentage points between 2020 and 2022. This sharp increase can be explained by the central role that racial justice issues, coupled with the pandemic, have played in magnifying and exacerbating inequity across racial, gender, and health lines. Shareholder demands for Equity Audits have also grown over the years, placing explicit expectations on organizations to evidence how their policies, practices, and processes are void of racial and gender inequity. More than ever before, the CDO role has become integral to an organizations’ ability to demonstrate commitment, action, and effective navigation of these complex socio-political challenges.

Good intentions drove much of the rise in CDO appointment since 2020. However, these appointments often failed to come with business support, resource investment, and concern for the personal demands placed on CDOs. It’s therefore unsurprising that, despite a rise in representation, CDO’s average tenure in the S&P500 has been unstable over the years. There was a steep decline from 2018 to 2020, with average tenure starting to rise after 2020.

Source: RRA S&P500 CDO Analysis 2023, n=878.



The burnout risks are real. This is especially the case as many organizations turn to and rely heavily on their CDOs every time a traumatic external event or social policy issue affects internal constituencies. Challenges to the mere presence of DE&I work and the values that underlie it proliferate as part of the volatile political environment in the US and elsewhere.

Jeffrey M. Siminoff
SVP, Workplace Dignity, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights


Another contributing factor to unstable average tenures is that, for 70% of CDOs, leading a DE&I function is a new venture. With limited former experience to cushion their expectations and existing gaps in support, some CDOs may find themselves overwhelmed by the demands of a new role.



Many of my peers who began their positions in 2020 are no longer in their roles, having joined other companies, branched out on their own, or pursued different positions entirely.

Nadine Augusta
Chief DE&I Officer (CDEIO), Cushman & Wakefield




Source: RRA FTSE 100 & EURONEXT100 CDO Analysis 2023, n=105.


Across Europe and the UK, the CDO landscape is evolving, with more than half of companies in the FTSE 100 and just under half of EURONEXT 100 companies employing a CDO.

This mirrors the growing compliance-orientated spotlight that DE&I issues are gaining in the UK and across Europe. A push for gender pay equity and greater representation at the top has dominated much of the attention in the UK, France and Germany.

In 2020, Germany set forth a new law to mandate all large publicly listed companies to maintain at least one women on their executive boards. Going a step further, France’s 2021 Rixian Law requires a minimum 30% women on executive leadership teams by 2027 and 40% by 2030.

In the UK, notable reviews examining the race, ethnic and gender composition of boards and executive teams have helped foster greater diversity at the top and a focused concern for ethnic representation.

Today, topics of equity, socio-economic status, neurodiversity, and generational diversity are also entering the agenda across parts of Europe. This indicates an increasingly sophisticated DE&I function in these markets, and the need for CDOs to maintain this broader scope. These growing demands may prove difficult to satisfy, with 44% of FTSE 100 and 54% of EURONEXT 100 CDOs, likely to have undergone a steep learning curve as they took on leadership of a DE&I functions for the first time. Additionally, 42% of CDOs in Europe are dividing their time across DE&I, HR and Talent functions, adding further strain to an already packed remit.


Asia Pacific

Source: RRA BSE200, S&P/ASX100, and SGX Top 50 Analysis 2023, n=75.



of BSE200 CDOs are first-time CDOs


of SGX/ASX100 CDOs are first-time CDOs


of SGC Top50 CDOs are first-time CDOs

Asia Pacific's CDO landscape is the smallest of all three regions we examined. Australia takes the lead with the highest proportion of CDO leaders, followed by India and Singapore. It’s likely that these numbers do not fully capture the full extent of DE&I leadership in Asia Pacific. That’s because DE&I, as a dedicated function, is still in its infancy in these markets, often sitting under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Human Capital, or the Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda. This is evidenced by the high proportion of CDO leaders in Asia Pacific wearing a ‘double-hat,’ with responsibilities extending beyond DE&I. In turn, this ‘double-hatting’ leads to some leaders missing DE&I language in their titles, even as they are still responsible for pushing the agenda forward.




of CDOs in Asia Pacific wear a double-hat, with responsability for DE&I, HR, Talent and CSR, most commonly. That’s 18 percentage points more than in EMEA and 21 percentage points more than in the US.



I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the appointment of new DE&I professionals. While visibility on CDO opportunities remain limited, regional appointments which have more transparency, have been increasing and persistent. I do see a number of folks with limited DE&I experience appointed to these roles and vastly varying mandates. Asian and European headquarter firms appear to be appointing more dual hat roles… I'm not surprised by this as organizations begin their DE&I journey.

Sophie Guerin
Head of DE&I APAC, Johnson & Johnson



This resonates somewhat with my experience. My organization has demonstrated that diversity is truly core to the culture. However, it has not yet adequately assessed the financial and personnel resources that are needed to build cultures of inclusion and belonging. Therefore, the resources required have been underestimated and, consequently, the function has been under-resourced.

DE&I Director based in APAC

When we zoom out into the social and legislative context in Australia, Singapore, and India, it becomes clear that the DE&I agenda is intensifying, and DE&I leadership will continue to be in demand. The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) has enacted recommendations for its listed companies, including the development and disclosure of their diversity policy, as well as measuring diversity objectives at the board, executive, and workplace levels. Similarly, the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) mandates its listed companies to maintain a board diversity policy that addresses gender, skills, experience and to report annually on the progress of that policy. India has seen a number of legislative developments impacting workplace diversity, including developments on sexual harassment that has brought about new board reporting requirements. However, despite expanding legal rights for LGBTQ people in India over the past decade, with the support and intervention of the Supreme Court (including a historic ruling in 2018), the topic remains a lightning rod in India's traditional society.

These complex sets of priorities, which call for nuanced understanding and interventions, limit the effectiveness of a single global DE&I strategy and approach. DE&I practitioners have long recognized the need for localized expertise and differentiated efforts, but have seldom had the investment and support required to actualize a local strategy. This is somewhat evidenced by the low levels of CDO representation across our select Asia Pacific indexes, the higher proportion of ‘double-hatting’ and first-time CDOs. With the drivers of DE&I in Asia Pacific continuing to multiply, organizations that are not investing in dedicated senior leadership for this function, could be at risk. But signs of progress are underway, with existing CDOs observing a shift in the appointment and positioning of DE&I leaders in Asia.



Over the last few years, it is heartwarming to see many multi-nationals companies with an Asian hub appointing regional DE&I leads. It sends a signal that this region is a key economic contributor to their bottom line and that the benefits of DE&I, when done well, pays off. It goes without saying that the DE&I role within Asia is shaped by the landscape and that one-size adoption strategy from the parent company does not land well. I have noticed that the (Asian) DE&I role has since evolved – from an implementor to a strategist, laying down the DE&I Roadmap with a nuanced approach for this region.

Kathy Teoh
Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Lead (Asia), Lloyd’s Register


Global chief diversity officer success stories

While the DE&I agenda shows no sign of slowing down, it’s important to take a step back to recognise and learn from the progress made by leaders at the forefront of this work. The DE&I leaders we spoke to shared important stories of transformation, integration and engagement.

Public disclosure of DE&I data


Being personally on the forefront of organizational public disclosure has been meaningful — disclosure really matters in terms of progress. As with any key organizational indicator, when public disclosure is anticipated, prioritization rises. More organizations need to disclose and contextualize data that matters — internally and publicly — and to do so in ways that are about more than just “butts in seats.” Look for more data about organizational culture, attrition, and communities that too often are invisible in data reporting (LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, for example). Along the way, the CDO needs the cross-organizational support necessary to meet the prioritization that disclosure warrants — whether for the reporting itself or, more importantly, for the progress that stakeholders expect to see.

Jeffrey M. Siminoff
SVP, Workplace Dignity, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights


Driving accountability


To further drive DE&I as a top priority, we outlined DE&I goals for our executives linked to diverse hiring, performance review completion rates, visible leadership related to DE&I and provided dedicated DE&I education and development programming for our global C-suite. In addition, as part of the performance management process for all global employees, we introduced goals to support each employee’s individual contribution to our culture of inclusion. Cushman & Wakefield is also committed to driving greater equity in the communities and markets we serve. The firm’s Supplier Diversity Program identifies opportunities to engage and partner with minority-, women-, veteran-, LGBTQ+-, and disability-certified businesses.

Nadine Augusta
Chief DE&I Officer (CDEIO), Cushman & Wakefield


Raising awareness


Amplifying stories, and giving colleagues and stakeholders concrete steps to take to become better allies.  This has been accomplished through a deliberate, focused campaign to make issues around inclusion more visible, and making the issue very concrete and applicable to all.

DE&I Director based in APAC


Developing and progressing talent 


We had a trend of appointing western leaders to DE&I volunteer leadership roles while local talent was in less visible, execution-focused roles. Reasoning usually cited “lack of executive presence," "lack of strategic capability," "more mentoring needed," etc. As volunteers have transitioned off, we have actively challenged this bias and appointed local leaders to those highly visible roles. We've made role modeling Asian leadership values a key component of this role, both to empower individuals locally but also educate/role model individuals outside of the region on different leadership norms which can be equally impactful and results oriented.

2nd DE&I Director based in APAC 


Looking to the future of DE&I leadership

The CDO role is intricately linked with the changing socio-political and legislative context surrounding the workplace. Because of this, the challenges and opportunities facing CDOs today will likely be different than those they will contend with tomorrow. In our conversations with existing CDOs, we gathered a number of key themes that are likely to shape future priorities for these leaders and their organizations. This includes more sophisticated integration of DE&I with the business, closer partnership and synergies with ESG efforts, a shift from talent attraction to talent development and retention, going beyond the workplace to focus on the marketplace, and differentiating local DE&I needs.



Across the US, movements are underway to scale back DE&I efforts, whether in academic or workplace settings. The Supreme Court is examining consideration of diversity in university admissions and reasoning in that decision may impact the workplace. What this means is that policy teams — along with communications teams — need to be in lock step (early and often) with their CDO partners to both understand and strategize around how core values like DE&I are sustained, discussed and positioned, even as movements are afoot to undermine them.

Jeffrey M. Siminoff
SVP, Workplace Dignity, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights



Historically, the CDO role has been focused on people and the talent life cycle to improve representation and access to opportunities. While this is valuable work that will continue, I believe that as organizations become more mature in their DE&I journey, the CDO role will expand to include increased focus on client acquisition, engagement and retention. I also anticipate that CDOs and DE&I work will be in closer alignment to the Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) efforts in organizations.

Nadine Augusta
Chief DE&I Officer (CDEIO), Cushman & Wakefield


The presence of CDOs across key regions shows promise. Yet our data also outlines a possible flight risk among CDOs, many of whom are double-hatting and are first-time DE&I leaders. Despite dealing with fluctuating and complex remits, existing CDOs have pressed forward and proven their ability to lead progress. To sustain and excel this progress, caution is needed. The road ahead is underpinned by financial downturns, which has already led to significant cuts and large-scale layoffs in the US, including to DE&I functions. Organizations that are serious about keeping their DE&I agenda alive and recognize the value of DE&I during times of crisis, cannot afford to look past the essential role that CDOs play. Carving out sustainable working structures and protecting investment in DE&I will be key to finding and keeping successful CDOs for the long run.



To conduct a global analysis of the DE&I leader landscape, we drew on a number of key regional indexes that mapped to areas where RRA has a strong presence, and for which we could access richer DE&I leader data through our data provider, BoardEx. To supplement some of the data gaps, we also conducted desk research on company websites and LinkedIn profiles to map a fuller picture of DE&I leaders. The data was analyzed to examine average representation, tenure, dedicated DE&I leaders, versus those with dual roles, and the number of first-time DE&I leaders. Utilizing our network of leaders, we supplemented our quantitative data with qualitative observations shared by existing DE&I Leaders across all sectors. Each DE&I leader was asked for formal approval of their comments before the publication of this paper.




  • Tina Shah Paikeday is a global leader of Russell Reynolds Associates’ DE&I practice. She is based in San Francisco.
  • Nisa Qosja is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ DE&I practice Knowledge team. She is based in London.
  • Shoon Lim is a consultant in Russell Reynolds Associates’ DE&I practice. She is based in Singapore.
  • Jennifer Flock is a consultant in Russell Reynolds Associates’ DE&I practice. She is based in Paris.

With special thanks to the DE&I leaders that shared their invaluable observations with us.