Chief Diversity Roles are Disappearing

Many articles are focused on how the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) role and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) roles may be disappearing, but has the wave of workplace DEI initiatives ended and will the blunt of the impact be felt by Black Women?

Let’s look at the rise and fall of the CDO role:

Around 2020, after George Floyd’s murder, there was a surge in the number of CDOs, with the expectation that they would lead organizations toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion impact. Therefore, the sudden focus on DEI was initially driven by ethical and moral challenges in the workplace highlighted in the media. A Gallup study found that only 39% of organizations had a dedicated DEI executive (CDO or DEI leader). For nearly half of them, DEI was one of the Chief HR Officer’s (CHRO) many areas of responsibility. Therefore, many organizations have never hired for the CDO role. 

The attrition rate for DEI roles was 33% at the end of 2022, compared to 21% for non-DEI roles. Amazon, Applebee’s, and Twitter have led the way with DEI layoffs since July 2022, according to Revelio Labs, a New York-based company that uses data to analyze workforce dynamics and trends. 

Black CDOs represent only 3.8% overall, with white people making up 76.1% of the roles. Those of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity make up 7.8%, and those of Asian ethnicity make up 7.7%.

In 2022, media outlets moved on from DEI issues, and CDOs faced challenges garnering support for their proposals and initiatives despite proclaimed organizational commitments to DEI. Therefore, many CDOs quit or transitioned into different roles based on budget fights within organizations. We’ve also seen articles reflect that organizations couldn’t correlate a positive impact on their ROI due to DEI initiatives. Another impact causing a reduction in CDOs happened in 2023, with the political and social backlash based on the Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action, which had companies rethinking their DEI initiatives. 

Now, look at the Business Case or expected benefits for DEI:

Benefit 1: Attracting top talent and fostering a collaborative and creative workplace

Organizations should benefit from leveraging and valuing different perspectives and opinions when developing strategies and efficiencies. We all know that collaboration builds team trust and increases engagement and loyalty, which should garner increased profitability. Yet, how do you measure this to assign it a profitability value? Especially when time is required. Change only happens when given time and everyone’s support. However, large companies quickly realized that not all employees at every level gave their support. 

Note: The 2023 Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action and diversity lawsuits against companies and universities reflects that many people don’t support diversity initiatives based on race. 

To combat this, many companies have changed the definition of diversity to “Diversity of Thought.” Therefore, instead of focusing on social and ethnic backgrounds and different genders, sexual orientations, etc. 

Diversity of thought highlights mindsets, perspectives, and thought processes. Organizations are creating initiatives that support teams that include different sides of an argument, understand different consequences, or seek different solutions to a problem. Diversity of thought sounds excellent, but the impact can create a team with no ethnic or gender diversity. Secondly, it only guarantees that different perspectives will be in the room, not that they will be valued if they are at varying levels of leadership.

Benefit 2: Allow for organizational efficiency and cost reduction. 

We hear that companies with diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative and, therefore, more profitable. However, this takes time and an inclusive culture. Remember, capitalism rewards ideas that generate higher profitability, and spending money on DEI initiatives will require investment. Organizations may not see a direct impact on efficiency and cost reduction or know how to measure the effect and correlate it to social and ethnic diversity. It’s easier to correlate profitability to the diversity of thought definition.

Benefit 3: Reinforce systemic exclusion and underrepresentation embedded in capitalism.

Everyone benefits from fair treatment, reduced bias, and promoting a sense of belonging within organizations. However, we all know that life isn’t fair, and why should business initiatives be fair? We have seen the impact of giving all students a trophy instead of declaring a winner. Why should businesses worry about the marginalization of certain groups? Again, it comes back to time. Over time, companies that don’t do DEI initiatives will see a reduction in their workforce pool of talent.  

How will companies secure the best talent in the future? 

  • Fair compensation regardless of gender, race, or other factors
  • Provide equal access to education, training, and career advancement opportunities
  • Create a culture where micro and macroaggressions are recognized and addressed
  • Include people from different backgrounds in hiring decisions
  • Educate employees and leaders about unconscious biases
  • Distribute decision-making powers
  • Teach critical thinking, empathy, and cultural competence
  • Raise awareness about systemic issues through media, education, and public discourse
  • Create holistic solutions to engage suppliers, vendors, communities, nonprofits, and employees

Bottomline, yes Black Women will feel the biggest immediate negative impact and will have to remain resilient.  However, those that master the professional playing field will secure an edge.  Consider joining The Bella Network and learn some guiding best practices.

We would enjoy your thoughts.

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