The Diminished Role of the CDO

How does your organization fare?

Many companies are moving to a model of placing the Office of Diversity in Human Resources and reporting to the head of HR. This diminishes the office’s effectiveness in a number of ways. First, it takes away one of the key roles and that is having an Officer level oversight for the organization’s DEI strategies. The best CDOs have a seat with the other C Level executives and their roles must carry the same weight. This is how you achieve an integrated business strategy. The roles are as important as the CFO, CMO and COO. They have a corporate governance role and report frequently to the BOD on a regular basis. I am seeing this firsthand in many of the organizations I am doing work with.

Also, many organizations have a CDO in title only. As Dr. Tiffany Jana noted recently, “A critical mass of diversity leaders are given a title and little more. The CDO title is useless without power, budget, purpose and resources.” The person in the role may have a title of CDO but in fact, they are a VP or Director level reporting to the CHRO. This diminishes the role and value of DEI to a point that the leaders of the company see it only as an HR-type reporting function. If companies are truly committed, this trend needs to change immediately.

Mita Mallick suggests that to be successful, CDOs need a team and a dedicated budget – “a commitment of at least $500,000 to begin implementing best-recruiting practices, improving training and building external partnerships. Eventually, he or she will also need to make additional hires.” That budget scales to $2 million as the starting range for large organizations with enterprise-wide initiatives. Driving change in an organization takes strategy, visible and vocal top-level buy-in, accountability, and a budget.

How does your organization fare? Do you have a figurehead or are you approaching DEI as a business imperative and strategic initiative?

Gender balance will only happen when advancing women is a strategic initiative backed and recognized as a business imperative for companies. Until then, we will continue to realize modest gains, and it will take decades for real progress.

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