Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) has become a veritable movement in corporate America. With Fortune 500 companies creating new positions and task forces to improve the diversity and inclusiveness of their employees, it seems that D&I is on everyone’s mind. Many of these measures are in response to movements like Black Lives Matter, but this move towards inclusivity is not a trend. This focus on diversity is here to stay. The stats agree: D&I job postings have increased 35% from 2015 to 2018, and they continue to rise. Similarly, more than 50% of companies on the S&P 500 index have a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) or equivalent position.
Not only are diverse employees getting more support than ever before, but companies are seeing the benefits of a diverse workplace. 72% of companies that conducted diversity and inclusion training in 2018 saw an increase in profits. Countless other studies also demonstrate the positive effect of diversity on companies. D&I is no longer an afterthought, but a way to drive real change and draw diverse talent to your organization. If you’re passionate about diversity, a D&I career might very well be in the cards for you. Below are some possible D&I career paths, as well as things to consider when embarking on a career in D&I.
Possible D&I Career Paths
Senior Leadership Diversity and Inclusion Jobs
Examples: Chief Diversity Officer, Vice President Diversity and Inclusion
The people in these jobs are generally responsible for D&I across the entire company and are often part of the Human Resources department. These jobs require extensive experience in diversity and inclusion or human resources. Their responsibilities can include creating and sponsoring employee affinity groups (such as LGBTQ+ groups or women in business) and working with recruiters to ensure fair hiring practices and diverse talent development. They are also responsible for developing company-wide D&I programs, as well as overseeing diversity metrics and reporting.
Middle Management Diversity & Inclusion Jobs
These jobs are often similar to the higher-level positions mentioned above, but are filled by mid-level employees rather than those with experience in senior roles. These positions may support the senior diversity officer, but in some companies, this is the highest diversity and inclusion role. In companies that lack a CDO, these roles generally report to HR. The existence or lack or existence of a senior D&I role can be telling. If a company places a strong emphasis on D&I, that company is more likely to make the head D&I role a senior position. In contrast, companies that care less about D&I may only have D&I employees at the middle management level and below.
Individual Contributor Diversity and Inclusion Roles
Finally, in addition to leadership positions, there are the roles that do most of the day-to-day D&I work. If the CDO determines goal metrics, for example, then the diversity analyst reviews that data and interprets the results. These roles may also be more general than higher-up D&I roles. Individual departments might have a recruiter responsible for developing diverse recruitment practices, even if they report to the head of HR, not the CDO.
Things to Keep in Mind When Pursuing a Career in D&K
Now that you have a good understanding of possible D&I careers, it’s important to discuss some considerations you should keep in mind when deciding if D&I is right for you. Below are some things to consider when working in D&I.
Level of Company Support
Many D&I positions are not set up for success. While we might wish that all D&I roles were well thought out, with clear responsibilities and a strong support system, this is not always the case. D&I roles can serve as scapegoats for companies, giving leaders a way to outsource the responsibility to someone else. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that any role you are considering has company support, a clear outline of responsibilities, and upper management who want to create real change.
Difficulty of D&I Work
While D&I work often creates real change, there are always more challenges to overcome and never-ending obstacles to face. A large part of the work is invisible, so working in D&I can feel abstract, as well as nearly impossible - how does a person dismantle biases that are deeply integrated into our society? D&I jobs also cover exceptional breadth. From creating company-wide strategy, to collaborating with HR, to pitching advertisements that include diverse representation, D&I employees must be able to multi-task and learn quickly to succeed.
Responsibility in the Workplace
Working in D&I means accepting an enormous responsibility. To be successful, employers must have cultural competence and compassion. The most effective D&I leaders have made significant progress in unpacking their own biases and privilege. These skills are vital: if you haven’t done the work to understand the challenges facing minority groups, you might end up inadvertently causing harm to marginalized groups.
Opportunities in D&I continue to grow, and with the need for the D&I roles becoming clearer and clearer, a career in D&I might be right for you. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what a career in D&I entails and know what to consider when looking for a job. Interested in learning more?
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