The old adage that there’s a ‘thin line between love and hate’ hits home when one is speaking about working tirelessly for something you believe in, have faith in and put a lot of trust in. I often think about those champions who truly believe the world is a better place when all people are embraced and included.
I want to talk about a specific group of individuals in the diversity and inclusion space – the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). I want to bring attention to the only leadership title that comes with little power but lots of influence; the one “chief” who does not report to the Chief Executive Officer, but to the Human Resource Officer; one of the few executives who leads a group with a shrinking budget but an expanding staff. This group, more than most, must manage the fine line of the passion within and the advocacy that positions the work.
For clarity, passion is defined as a strong and barely controllable emotion. So how does passion show up? Sometimes it is when you just act on belief and emotion without thinking about the consequences. Advocacy means public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. Advocacy is typically a well thought-out process of actions designed to change and have an impact based on a particular cause or belief. We can all relate to both concepts.
I know a few hundred diversity executives – a lot, right. So, personally, when I engage in dialogue with these Chief Diversity Officers, we often lose ourselves in moments of passion when we talk about what inclusion looks like in their organization and how trust empowers people. And what if everyone got it and recognized the undisputable value of teams packed with differences? Then reality sets in – the work of helping people manage bias, perceptions and, of course, joy when it all comes together.
I am not sure if Chief Diversity Officers are viewed as a misunderstood group of executives who are working for the people, but I know that this group of executives gets it – more than any other – that revenue growth and profit are sustainable with a true diverse workforce and inclusive culture.
DMBA Inclusive Leadership Index shares some key insights about Chief Diversity Officers’ resources and support:
– In 2014 the percentage of CEOs visibly communicating D&I strategy declined 31 percent;
– 81 percent of companies are engaging boards of directors to support diversity and inclusion strategy;
– 96 percent of companies have a diversity lead but not a chief diversity officer;
– 68 percent of companies have some level of reward system in place for diversity strategy achievement; and
– 98 percent of chief diversity officers report to human resource executives, leaving only 2 percent reporting directly to the CEO.
My question is why do they have to keep fighting the good fight every day? Or is that just the passion of the job?