Chief Diversity Officers Are Set Up To Fail

A new report from executive search consultancy Russell Reynolds helps shed light on the current plight of corporate diversity professionals.

While the now robust business case for diversity has persuaded executive teams to install more diversity leaders and inclusion systems, there are real reasons to believe that their work will not have the impact their bosses and boards expect.

A Leader’s Guide: Finding and Keeping Your Next Diversity Officer surveyed 234 top diversity executives from the S&P 500 cohort, to better determine who they are and what they need.

Bottom line, who they are is tired, and what they need is more money, power, and respect.

Here’s a quick snapshot:

They’re new to the role. While some 47 percent of companies included on the S&P 500 index currently have a chief diversity officer (CDO) or equivalent, just two-thirds of those were hired or promoted into those roles in the past three years.

They don’t have the power they need to make a difference. More than half of those surveyed reported that they don’t have the resources they need to execute new programs and strategies and that they are burdened with additional corporate responsibilities outside of their inclusion work.

They don’t have the data they need to make a difference. Only 35 percent of the CDOs said they had the employee demographic survey information they needed to support their work.

Other leaders aren’t on board. All of the leaders surveyed reported that diversity and inclusion came in last on a list of eight potential business priorities for their companies.

Click through for the rest of the analysis and recommendations, which includes the specific competencies required to be successful in the top diversity job. (Hint, you’re going to need to be a strategic thinker and a very good communicator. Particularly if you’re having trouble getting your hands on your own company’s diversity numbers.)

If your organization is not yet prepared to embrace the positive impact of diversity – like McKinsey done told ya last year, organizations with diverse boards and executive teams were up to 35 percent more likely to outperform their more homogeneous peers – there’s now the negative to consider, too.

Russell Reynold’s analysis also found that companies who had public incidents of racist and sexist “bad executive behavior” in 2017 and 2018 saw an average 7 percent decline in market capitalization in the weeks following the news. The combined market hit was about $4 billion.

That’s a pretty solid business case for having tough conversations about race and equity in the workplace before the invisible hand comes to slap you upside the head.

On Point

What is happening to black homeownership? It’s truly heartbreaking. Unlike other demographic groups, black homeownership is on the decline. Only 43% of black families own their home, the lowest point since its 2004 peak of 50%. The reasons are complex and varied, but his particular stat from the sub-prime lending era should make you very, very angry. “In 2006, amid the real estate run-up, black families earning more than $200,000 annually were more likely on average to be given a subprime loan than a white family making $30,000 a year,” according to research from New York University. “The financial crisis triggered a massive destruction of wealth for African Americans,” said the co-director of the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center.
Washington Post

The Michael Jackson documentary is out on HBO The first of a two-part documentary alleging that megastar Michael Jackson abused two of his young dance impersonators debuted last night on HBO. Leaving Neverland relies heavily on the testimony of the two men, James Safechuck and choreographer Wade Robson and their families, and alleges a long, slow grooming process that sounds more like abuse in plain sight. There is no easy way to process this for anyone. But Vulture’s Craig Jenkins does a valiant job, describing the outsized power that Jackson had in his prime, and the pain that fans will inevitably feel if they are to believe that he was a predator. He envies anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. “They got to listen one more time without the dizzying feeling that, all our lives, we might have been sold a bill of goods, that the strange man who made the beautiful music could have been using it to do irreparable harm to innocents in his reach.”

Erasing women in tech, again Last night, CBS's 60 Minutes aired a segment, more than a year in the planning, about how to better close the gender gap in computer science. We know this because they contacted Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani to contribute to the segment. Instead, she says, they focused only on one organization,, a mission with a lofty goal, but not focused on the gender gap. No girl-focused organizations like Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, NCWIT, Kode with Klossy, or others were included. “If 60 Minutes had included us,” she wrote on Medium, “America would have learned that—contrary to what was said in the program—introducing girls to computer science earlier on (i.e. kindergarten) isn’t enough to close the gender gap in tech. Girls need support systems all along the pipeline.” She continued the work of amplifying other girl-focused organizations on Twitter here.


On Background

How to talk about race and racism The most recent installment of “Aspen Ideas To Go,” the podcast for the Aspen Ideas Festival crowd, stars New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb and New York Times op-ed contributor Wajahat Ali in an important conversation about the future of an America that is intractably stuck on race. In one exchange, Cobb discusses an email from a reader who asked him how alarmed he’d be if all the people pouring over the border were white. “Your struggle is to maintain a particular hierarchy and you think I want to reverse the hierarchy,” Cobb said about the exchange. “No, I want to abolish it.” Economic anxiety is what happens when white people are concerned about their relative economic status, agrees Ali. "It’s why there will never be a black or Latinx 'Hillbilly Elegy.'” He continues, “We just want a seat at the table, we don’t want your seat.”
Aspen Institute

While we’re talking, we need to discuss redface, too Blackface is clearly wrong and a hideous reminder of a racist and violent past. But what about redface, which continues largely unabated or commented on? Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, finds the contradiction jarring. “[B]eing here in Northern Virginia, where the Washington football team is revered, people don’t give a second thought to fans putting paint and feathers on themselves at the stadium.” Gover, a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe in Oklahoma, says part of the problem is that most people don’t know any Native Americans. The other is the persistent idea that this type of cosplay is a tribute somehow. Dressing up as an Indian has been going on for 250 years, he says. “I guess I would say that if you really want to honor us, learn something about the history of the country.
The Undefeated

A study shows shifting attitudes about free will in Chinese kids Different cultures have very different ideas about happiness, personal agency, and life, but a new study suggests that the cultural divide might be shrinking. The belief in free will—the idea that you can make independent choices that are not influenced by past events—is largely associated with Western or “individualist” cultures, not Eastern “collectivist” ones. Yet this study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, seems to indicate that attitudes are changing among Chinese youth. Some 85% of the adolescents surveyed expressed a belief in free will, which correlated positively with happiness. It’s a fascinating discussion, click through for a great review of the study.
Frontiers Blog


"Everyone in the world has gone to bed one night or another with fear or pain or loss or disappointment, and yet each of us has awakened, arisen. Somehow made our ablutions. Seen other human beings and said, 'Morning! How are you!' 'Fine thanks, and you!' It’s amazing. Wherever that abides in the human being, there is the nobleness of the human spirit. Despite it all, black and white, Asian, Spanish, Native American. Pretty, plain. Thin, fat. Vowed or celibate… we rise."

Maya Angelou

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