Where Does Gender Equity Fall In The Org Chart?
Welcome to my weekly Q&A feature. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions — tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. Each week I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusion.
- Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
- Inclusion: bringing others along on the journey.
Who Should Own Gender Equity In The Workplace?
If I’m looking at your standard org chart, whose bucket should diversity and inclusion fall in if we don’t have a Chief Diversity Officer? Or would you say that the CDO is essential to advancing D&I (and thus we need to create that position)?
Workplace inequity isn’t the result of an inadequate amount of diversity training. It isn’t the result of too few women’s empowerment summits. It certainly isn’t the result of not having a Chief Diversity Officer.
Workplace inequity is the result of systems, rules, and processes that perpetuate biased behavior and cultures of exclusion. So let’s ask your question another way.
Whose job is it to fix the (company-wide) systems, rules, and processes that spin the flywheel of inequity?
It’s a tall ask. And yet, many companies hire Chief Diversity Officers expecting them to do just that. Depending on who you ask, a CDO is a cheerleader, a therapist, a compliance officer, a brand ambassador, a social justice warrior, and an attorney responsible for “doing” diversity and inclusion.
How do you fit that on an org chart? Perhaps it’s more helpful to start with the frame — the what, then we can talk about how to operationalize the function — the how.
Equity In The Workplace: Integrate, Don’t Add
Here’s the good news. You can move the needle on DEI at your company so long as:
- The executive team (and most importantly, the CEO) supports equity, and
- The executive team (and most importantly, the CEO) views equity as a key driver of business performance
Leaders need to reframe what equity means for the company and how it unlocks massive economic potential. My company, Pipeline, conducted research across 4,161 companies in 29 countries and found that for every 10% increase in intersectional gender equity, businesses increase revenue by 1–2%.
Workplace equity is a business imperative, therefore it needs to be treated as one.
Frame Workplace Equity As A Business Imperative
Business imperatives are not performative, siloed, ephemeral, or flippant. They are meticulously measured and tracked against quantifiable goals.
For equity to take root and thrive, your executive team must commit to embedding DEI across all the systems and processes that run your business.
As a business imperative, the CEO should own this responsibility and cascade its corollaries throughout the org chart. If you choose to bring on a Chief Diversity Officer to further support this business imperative, you must set them up for success.
Operationalizing Equity Via The Chief Diversity Officer
It’s been dubbed the “toughest job in business.” And it’s not hard to see why. Companies routinely hire CDOs, throw them the ball, then run the team off the court. No wonder turnover is high. The average tenure of a CDO dropped from 3.1 years in 2018 to 1.8 years in 2019.
You can reverse that dismal tenure trajectory by using the following criteria to ensure the success of your CDO.
Criteria For CDO Success
- Must report to the CEO
Among the 52% of S&P 500 companies with CDOs, only 36% follow a reporting structure in which the CDO reports directly to the CEO. Yet, robust integration between these two roles ensures the entire company is taking steps in the right direction.
2. Must have access to data
You measure business performance in numbers. And then you hold people accountable to those numbers. Yet, only 35% of CDOs have the employee demographic data necessary for executing their mandate.
3. Must have adequate budget and resources
When you throw the CDO the ball, you also need to throw them the resources they need to dribble down the court and shoot. But resources seem to be coming up short. More than half of CDOs say they lack the resources needed to achieve their goals.
To wrap up, let’s return to the question I posed in the beginning. Whose job is it to fix the (company-wide) systems, rules, and processes that spin the flywheel of inequity?
Ask that same question to your executive team and let the discussion guide your path forward.