CDO Series: KPMG’s Elena Richards

Following the murder of George Floyd, the role of Chief Diversity Officers has become more important as companies started to be more intentional with their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which has made the last few years tumultuous for many CDOs.

In the latest installment of a series of articles dedicated to catching up with CDOs who have moved in recent years to discuss their experience, what the move has done for them, the work they’re doing and the advice they have for other aspiring or current CDOs, Diversityinc spoke with Elena Richards, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at KPMG (No. 11 on DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list). Richards came to KPMG after serving as Managing Director for a national diversity team.

Interview With Elena Richards

DiversityInc: You’ve been at KPMG for over a year now, but I want to go back to the period where you made the move from a company where you’d worked for more than 20 years. What did you find exciting about this move for your career and the challenge of starting fresh in a new place?

Elena Richards: “I was fortunate to build my skills in areas that impact the employee experience across the talent life cycle, including resource management, talent acquisition, talent management and talent development. The intersection with diversity, equity and inclusion has increasingly become more paramount, and this has excited me most to expand my career into this discipline.

“When I joined KPMG, CEO Paul Knopp and the rest of the management committee showcased an obvious commitment to DEI, affirming to me that I would be well supported and expected to challenge the status quo. After speaking with more than half of Paul’s leadership team, I had complete clarity on the organizational aspirations for our people, the shared value with our clients and the engagement we needed to have in our communities to drive meaningful change.”

DI: What are some of the initiatives you’ve been excited to work on since joining KPMG and what are some of the lessons that you’ve learned through that work?

ER: “The journey for greater transparency and accountability has been extremely important to me. KPMG’s DEI Transparency Report was a great milestone for the firm in sharing information with our people, as well as more broadly with our clients and communities.

“Our US Impact Plan, which articulates our ESG commitments, also embeds our DEI aspirations, progress and a path forward as a component of ‘social.’ More recently, the firm celebrated its 125th anniversary by having a day of service, which was a meaningful day of community impact across the nation. My heart is still full from the time I spent with kids at the Armory in NY.”

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