Should the CEO also be the Chief Diversity Officer?

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Here’s a question… Should the CEO also be the Chief Diversity Officer?
Anyone in business knows that the most powerful officer in any organization is the CEO.

Typically selected by the board in public companies, CEOs in large companies typically deal only with very high-level strategic decisions and those that direct the company’s overall growth.

In smaller companies, CEOs often are more hands-on and involved with day-to-day functions.

CEOs in either large or small companies most definitely set the tone, and culture, and priorities of the organizations they lead.

Priorities is an important word here… there’s one school of thought that if the CEO takes on the DE&I champion role, it’ll automatically become a strategic priority … if that’s true then moving the agenda forward with accountability would be really simple, right?

We wish it were that easy… the Corporate Finance Institute lists 8 typical responsibilities for a CEO, chief of which are leading the development of the long- and short-term strategy and mitigating risk. That’s a lot and adding another priority to that list that the CEO may not have expertise in could be problematic.

Time, mind share, and subject matter knowledge are the real challenges here.

There are only so many hours in the day and If we really think about this from a strategic standpoint we know that not all issues, priorities, or responsibilities can be equally weighted at any point in time.

Our position is that the Chief Diversity Office Role should not be part of the CEO’s job, but function as an actual c-level officer, not report to HR. Having the CDO report into another line function 2-3 levels down from the CEO, but carry the title is a recipe for implicitly downplaying the importance of the work.

If an organization is going to create a chief diversity officer role, wouldn’t it be better to have the CDO actually be part of the c-suite and empower that person to make the necessary changes without having to advocate and manage up?

This ain’t easy work… we should be sure it’s managed carefully
If you’d like to have a conversation about this topic or learn more, contact us today.