New addition to the C-Suite: the CDO

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In order to show that workplaces are really walking the talk in terms of ensuring diversity, adding a new member to the C-Suite – the chief diversity officer (CDO) – is becoming all the rage.

As firms increasingly see a need to ensure workplace diversity, the role of the CDO has been created to promote fairness and equal opportunities to women and minority groups internally. A CDO’s job description generally includes elements of recruitment, HR, marketing, ethics and legal compliance.

One of the first CDO’s to gain a public profile in Canada is Noëlle Richardson of Ontario’s Public Service (OPS). The OPS created the role as part of a multi-year diversity strategy with a strong focus on leadership, recruitment and outreach, developing and retaining diverse talent, and education and awareness, in the interest of creating an inclusive workplace.

According to OPS, while the CDO helps to create a focus on building a culture that is inclusive and welcoming, it is not the role of the CDO alone to change the organizational culture, but rather the responsibility of everyone in the organisation.

“My role as the Chief Diversity Officer is to lead the diversity and inclusion journey right across the OPS from one end of the province to the other. The vision of the OPS is to be a diverse and inclusive organization that delivers excellent public service and supports all employees to achieve their full potential,” Richardson said.

At OPS the diversity strategy has four strategic elements:

  • Informed, Committed and Competent Leadership;
  • Behavioural and Cultural Transformation;
  • Mainstreaming and Integrating Diversity; and
  • Measurement, Evaluation and Reporting

According to research by executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, around 60% of Fortune 500 companies currently have a CDO or executive role designated for diversity. Among those in the roles, 65% are female and 37% are African-American. They come from a variety of professional backgrounds, including HR, marketing, finance and operations.

Many CDOs earn salaries equivalent to other senior roles like chief marketing officer or chief legal counsel.

“The C-suite label gives it more stature, certainly, but the real message is that this is a critical initiative to the company,” Heidrick & Struggles partner Billy Dexter said.

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