Success and the CDO

A university’s chief diversity officer needs two factors to succeed.

FOR CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICERS at institutions of higher education, success is largely dependent on two factors: the conditions in place at the institution, and the expectations that leaders and constituents have for what is to be accomplished. Those are the findings of a new report issued by executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. The report is based on the responses of 81 CDOs who come primarily from higher education, but also from the fields of academic medicine and healthcare.

“The chief diversity officer is a relatively new leadership role on college campuses and one that is growing in significance,” says Charlene Aguilar, report co-author and consultant in Witt/ Kieffer’s Education Practice. “CDOs are frequently new to the role and are often the first person to have that role at the institution. The first challenge they often face is that there is no diversity and inclusion strategic plan already in place.”

A key takeaway from the survey is that new CDOs need strong institutional support to be effective, observes Khalilah Lawson, another co-author and senior associate in the company’s Education Practice. That support is important because “60 percent of respondents noted that the responsibility for their positions changed significantly in the course of the first year.” However, on the positive side, 68 percent felt that conditions were right for them to succeed during their first 12 months on the job.

Download “The Critical First Year: What New Chief Diversity Officers Need to Succeed.”