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The Role of Chief Diversity Officers

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

Paper individuals

We've all heard of chief executive officers, chief sustainability officers, or chief financial officers. One executive and management function, however, is less popular in news articles and academic papers: Chief Diversity Officer.

This article will focus on the chief diversity officers' role in the modern organization. Beyond exploring the executive and management functions of a chief diversity officer, we will dive deeper into their educational and leadership roles, and their implications for competitive business practices.

Chief diversity officer definition

Pile of hands

Chief diversity officers are responsible for creating, developing, implementing, and maintaining diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives within organizations. They contribute to making diversity and inclusion core elements of company culture. Concretely, they are the executives whose job is to ensure new or current employees of diverse backgrounds feel welcome at the office.

As the indicates, the chief diversity officer is a "C-suite" leader, meaning he or she is among the highest-ranking executives in the firm. That being said, having a chief diversity officer in the company organigram is already a statement in itself: diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical components within the organization and senior leadership should be directly in charge of them getting the time and attention they require.

What are chief diversity officers' duties?

Diverse team

The typical chief diversity officer job description

  • Creation of DEI training programs and initiatives which foster diverse and inclusive working environments

  • Close monitoring of those programs and initiatives to measure the impact and success of operations

  • Keeping a close eye on DEI-related trends, laws, and regulations

  • Liaising with other executives to inform them and advise them on diversity, equity, and inclusion-related matters

Let us explore some of these tasks and duties in more detail in the following sections.

1. Incorporating diversity and inclusion into strategic planning

The core responsibility of a chief diversity officer is to make sure diversity and inclusion are a part of the company culture ensemble. As company culture plays a large role in consumers' perceptions of companies and the products and services they offer, the strategic component is to be taken seriously and included in the company's global competitive strategy.

As such, the chief diversity officer needs to present - beyond the ethical importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion - how diversity can be leveraged by the company to gain a competitive advantage.

2. Creating diversity and inclusion training initiatives

Perhaps the best way of ensuring diversity and inclusion throughout the organization is by educating and training the workforce on DEI. These training activities and educational initiatives are essential in raising employees' awareness of these matters.

Diversity training can present diversity implications for business, management, leadership, and companies. It is designed to facilitate intercultural collaboration within companies and of course, reduce prejudice and discrimination in the workplace. Just like creating a culture of gratitude in the workplace, diversity training contributes to maintaining employee morale and overall harmony in the organization.

3. Monitoring and addressing behaviors incompatible with organization DEI rules

While chief diversity officers need to ensure diversity and inclusion and are well incorporated into company culture, they are also responsible for acting on problematic behaviors that might arise. After all, what is the point of implementing diversity-fostering management, training, and business programs if the presented principles are not applied?

The first step to a healthy diverse environment is a healthy environment. In order to attract diverse talent and employees with various backgrounds, the organization needs to show its community is safe, inclusive, and equal. While chief diversity officers can't be on all fronts, it is their job to form a team of employees who will ensure company guidelines are respected.

4. Liaising with other executive functions

The chief diversity officer is responsible for safe and healthy company-wide diversity and inclusion environment. This means that all departments, whether it's the marketing, R&D, or financial departments, need to be in line with diversity and inclusion policies implemented by the chief diversity officer.

This means the chief diversity officer needs to liaise with other executives on a regular basis, to ensure smooth communication, implementation, and maintenance of DEI policies and practices.

Which skills do chief diversity officers need to possess?

Team working at a desk

The chief diversity office role is best filled by individuals with a strong set of soft skills and high emotional intelligence.

Here are examples of skills a chief diversity officer should possess in his or her professional CV:

  • Cross-cultural communication

  • Human resources

  • Strategic planning

  • Interpersonal competence

  • Intercultural competence

  • Analytical thinking

  • Problem-solving

Let's dive into a few important skills reflecting Chief Diversity Officer's responsibilities.

Human resource management

Human resources are narrowly tied to diversity and inclusion matters. In a context where business and careers have no borders, it is now common to work in a culturally diverse team. International talent acquisition and retention thus find themselves as a part of chief diversity officers' tasks.

A diverse and inclusive workforce is more attractive to international candidates. The chief diversity officer needs to have a good understanding of human resource practices in order to liaise with the HR department in the most effective way possible.

Intercultural competence

In order to function effectively across cultures, chief diversity officers need to present high levels of intercultural competence. In a nutshell, intercultural competence is one's ability to collaborate and communicate within a cross-cultural team.

As ambassadors of DEI, chief diversity officers need to possess the cognitive and behavioral skills indispensable to foster company-wide diversity and inclusion practices. High levels of intercultural competence can be achieved through education, intercultural workplace experience, and many years of experience in international companies and environments.

Analytical skills

With constantly changing trends, laws, and regulations pertaining to diversity, equity, and inclusion matters, the chief diversity officer is required to stay on top of any change that might arise in the DEI landscape.

This is especially important for organizations present in different countries or on different continents, where regulatory issues might vary from the geographical region where the company is headquartered. Chief Diversity Officers must thus utilize strong analytical skills to gather relevant DEI-related data from reports, press releases, journals, and governmental sources.


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