Breaking down barriers: the role of the Chief Diversity Officer

Breaking down barriers: the role of the Chief Diversity Officer

Many events of last summer and indeed the last few years have caused many businesses to re-evaluate their diversity practices. The role of the Chief Diversity Officer is the newest regular function in senior leadership and these roles are popping up rapidly.

The FBI hired their first diversity officer in April of this year! According to the Financial Times, the number of people with the title “Head of Diversity” doubled worldwide between 2015 and 2020. Meanwhile, the title “Director of Diversity” rose by 75%, while “Chief Diversity Officer” grew by 68%. American universities are employing more and more people to head up their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion campaigns and businesses are following suit.  

As a result, the demand for a CDO has increased exponentially. But what is the actual role of a CDO? And are they effective in what they set out to do? 

The role 

The role of a CDO is multifold. Their responsibilities include, in most forms, creating a strategy to tackle discrimination and improve representation across ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, disability, and class. It might also include expanding talent pools, setting targets linked to compensation, monitor retention and promotion rates, and drive cultural change across whichever institution they are working within.  

Diversity isn’t just about the people that make up a company either. It’s about product inclusion, supplier diversity, and board diversity. Ultimately, the CDO’s role is to review existing practices and implement change for the better of the business. The Chief Diversity Officer is usually a member of the senior leadership team in a business and reports to other members at the C-suite level.  

The efficacy of CDOs 

In order for a CDO to actually drive change across a business, especially a larger one, the person in the role needs to have actual power. Many diversity officers are still purely performative, their positions just ceremonial, but this is starting to change. It’s also vital that the organization itself be willing to change.  

The backgrounds of CDOs are also changing. While many used to come from HR backgrounds, they now seem to come from business divisions, reflecting an overall corporate commitment to diversity. 

Currently, the turnover rate for positions such as these is high. The average tenure of a CDO in the US was 1.8 years in 2021, down from 3.1 years in 2018. This is partly due to poaching and the growing popularity of the position, meaning that CDOs, who are in short supply and high demand, are being made better offers easily. Therefore, it is vital that a company has the necessary infrastructure in place to support their existing CDOs, lest they lose them to competitors.  

Need help implementing your vision of diversity throughout your organization? Get in touch with one of us at Proco Commodities. We can help you design a framework to drive results, improve business, and create a safe and profitable working environment for a diverse staff.  

Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to stay up to date with all the latest trends and developments occurring across the Commodities supply chain and the sectors of sustainability, diversity, digitalization, and innovation. To discuss diversity further, feel free to get in touch with me at 

This article is part of a report from Proco Commodities and Proco Global, “Future America.” You can download the report here.

by Ross Gregoryview my profile

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