The Critical First Year: What New Chief Diversity Officers Need to Succeed

The chief diversity officer (CDO) has become increasingly prominent in today’s top colleges, universities, academic medical centers, health systems, and other institutions and is critical to their success. CDOs are at the vanguard of cultural change, which isn’t an easy role to fill. They are human, not miracle-workers; there is no set portfolio to suit the task at hand, and no two institutions share the same degrees of readiness and willingness.

What do CDOs — and other diversity, equity and inclusion executives — need to achieve success, especially in the critical first year of the role? To find out, WittKieffer surveyed sitting CDOs about the early days of their tenures. This report details their responses and sheds lights on key issues for new diversity leaders. A few key data points:

  • 62% of those surveyed indicated that they are the first individual to hold their position at their organization.
  • Less than two-thirds (59%) said that the responsibilities of their roles were spelled out clearly when they started.
  • Just 16% said, “The institution had a diversity and inclusion strategic plan in place when I began.”
  • Less than half (47%) said that they had adequate resources to fulfill their charge upon starting.
  • On the positive side, 86% said, “I had the support of the president/CEO and administration to fulfill my charge.”

With appropriate support, a CDO can enhance and capitalize on an organization’s greatest asset — its people. This leader can also help to confront complex internal challenges that threaten employee culture and organizational livelihood.

Read “The Critical First Year: What New Chief Diversity Officers Need to Succeed