DE&I Employer Toolkit

A Leader’s Guide: Finding and Keeping Your Next Chief Diversity Officer


Diversity, inclusion & equity have become headline issues, putting pressure on organizations and leaders to respond in a meaningful way. Investors are also expressing their displeasure with discrimination allegations. Russell Reynolds Associates’ review of 2017 and 2018 incidents involving bad executive behavior showed that companies experienced an average 7 percent decline in market capitalization, or $4 billion, in the days and weeks following the news.

In this paper, we take a data-driven approach to analyze the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) role and what makes it successful. We examine the career paths and competencies of today’s CDOs, based on the 234 CDOs currently at S&P 500 companies. We then uncover the barriers many CDOs face within their organizations. Finally, we look at the actions leaders and organizations can take to make CDOs more successful. Three key questions are addressed:

  1. What experiences and competencies define today’s CDOs?
  2. What are the current barriers CDOs face in embedding D&I into the organization?
  3. How can CEOs, CHROs and other top executives set CDOs up for success?


Company Level:

Mid-size employer (250-1000 total employees)


Informational and Implementation

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