Recently we have seen an exodus of Heads of DEI; amongst them are Netflix, Disney, Warner Brothers, Nike, Gucci, and Tesla. In some cases, the roles have not been refilled. According to executive search firm Russell Reynolds data, the average CDO tenure is now under two years, compared to more than three years in 2018. Nearly 60% of 2018 CDOs have left their roles, with the majority leaving the CDO track for other professional interests, and just 18% of current CDOs have prior experience in the role, down from 26% in 2018. Ask yourself, where have we ever seen statistics like this regarding a function in an organization?
The knee-jerk reaction of the corporate world to events like the George Floyd murder resulted in the establishment of DEI departments, ostensibly tasked with championing transformative shifts within organizations. But here’s the truth, we at Bright Places, have screamed for years, “DEPARTMENTALIZING DEI DOES NOT WORK!”
When an organization designates a specific department responsible for DEI, the ownership and accountability for these efforts are shifted away from executive decision-makers. As a result, DEI becomes seen as a compartmentalized issue handled by a select group of individuals (usually short-staffed and facing burn-out) rather than an embedded value upheld by leadership and all employees. This leads to a workplace mentality where other departments only address DEI when faced with related problems instead of proactively working towards creating an inclusive environment.
To foster meaningful organizational change, shift perspectives, and embed DEI values throughout the structure. Here are some actionable steps to approach DEI and embed change effectively:
The fading out of DEI departments is a natural evolution of organizational approaches towards genuine equity and inclusion. DEI specialists understand the importance of moving beyond performative gestures and adopting comprehensive strategies that involve the entire organization. By embedding DEI values into the company’s fabric, employing external expertise, and holding leadership accountable, organizations can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable future.
Change is a gradual process, and building an inclusive environment requires commitment from all levels of the organization. Let us move away from short-lived departmental efforts and focus on creating a workplace where diversity, equity, and inclusion thrive as shared values upheld by all.