The ongoing push for social change and reform that started last year after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others isn’t just changing the world we live in, it’s also dramatically changing the places we work. And nowhere is that change more evident than in DE&I. Recently released data shows that the hiring of diversity chiefs has soared over the previous year and, according to some estimates, is now at an all-time historic high.
In a review of new hires conducted by Russell Reynolds Associates, researchers found that hiring of new diversity chiefs within Standard & Poor’s 500 index has nearly tripled within the last 16 months, with as many as a dozen new positions being filled monthly. A broader analysis of publicly-traded companies on the stock market conducted by the same group found a similar jump, with more than 60 firms appointing their first-ever diversity chief since May 2020.
But whether this hiring boom and the unprecedented change that the Black Lives Matter Movement has helped to usher in will last is debatable, says reporter Jeff Green of Bloomberg.
“While 85 of the nation’s top 100 corporations tracked by Bloomberg for corporate diversity have a chief diversity officer, representation of minorities within their workforce continues to lag behind,” Green wrote. “Recruiting a new leader sends a strong signal, but it takes more than one executive to make an impact in the face of institutional pushback.”
Even after the flood of recent hires, real progress may continue to be slow. After all, as Green pointed out, chief diversity officer positions have been around for nearly two decades. After all that time, he added, “only about 53% of S&P 500 firms do have such a position or equivalent, up from 47% in 2018.”
In addition to the glacial pace some corporations force their diversity officers to deal with as a daily hurdle, Green also pointed to the problems like low budgets and direct reports who don’t support their efforts as regular challenges diversity officers routinely face in order to succeed. Perhaps that’s why job turnover for the position remains so high; Green noted that the average tenure for a chief diversity officer in a corporate setting is 3.2 years, compared to 5.5 years for a CEO.
Still, despite the challenges all diversity officers face — both those who are newly hired and those who have been in their positions for years —Tina Shah Paikeday, who leads Russell Reynolds’ diversity and inclusion advisory practice is hopeful things are finally getting better. “What’s different this time is that the whole world is focused on it,” she told Green in an interview.
To prove her point, Paikeday pointed to the numerous companies that are now setting hiring quotas, dropping degree requirements that may have been a barrier for recruiting minorities and expanding their recruiting pool to many historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In addition to the incredible increase in hiring of diversity-focused personnel, she’s also seen a noticeable increase in budgets for diversity programs, along with a more gradual and patient approach that allows more time for programs to flourish and develop over time — changes she hopes will allow all diversity programs to experience even greater success over time.
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