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The Emerging Role of DEI Leaders

The Emerging Role of DEI Leaders

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Over the last few years of the COVID pandemic, social unrest, political turmoil, and the Great Resignation across the globe, many workplaces have realized the necessity of considering how societal changes affect employee retention and well-being. It is no longer just internally important to involve DEI in the workplace. Now, many consumers demand transparency and various new regulations to publicize diversity statistics have created an urgency when it comes to DEI progress. As the approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion grows, so does the role of leaders within organizations. This has led to the emerging role of DEI leaders. A Chief Diversity Officer is now a common position at leading companies and corporations across the globe.

The Emerging Role of DEI Leaders in Corporate Leadership

Many companies in search of change are increasing their recruitment of DEI leaders. Many workplaces are pledging more investment and support into creating more diverse and equitable environments. Hiring for diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just a trend. It is a movement toward a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive workforce.

What is DEI?

DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. A wide range of ideas and experiences in any organization is the best way to achieve growth, innovation, and success. In fact, DEI efforts lead to better employee retention. Employees who are supported and comfortable at their companies will want to continue working for those companies.

What is a DEI Leader?

Typically, DEI officers sit in the People or Human Resources (HR) departments. Whether your title is technically “DEI Leader” or not, every business owner should be DEI-competent. This is important for creating spaces and opportunities for people from all different walks of life to be listened to and appreciated within their workplaces. There are several examples of amazing DEI leaders at companies across the country you can look to.

DEI Leader Responsibilities

  • Understanding the systemic challenges of their employees and community
  • Welcoming and creating diversity in the workplace
  • Tackling issues around equity, including policies
  • Making sure that those who are diverse are welcomed and feel welcomed

Characteristics of Effective DEI Leaders

The answer when searching for someone to lead your company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts is not to simply hire the nearest woman or BIPOC individual. You want to find someone with expertise in DEI and implementing these efforts.


Any good leader is also a learner. A DEI leader needs to be open-minded, curious, and respectful of others. They must be able to learn from the experiences and perspectives of other people who may lead very different lives from theirs. Curiosity means that DEI leaders are proactive, not just reactive. They are constantly looking for ways to improve and move beyond the status quo. They will ensure that the organization is considering the voices and opinions of as many different kinds of people as possible.


An excellent DEI leader has the desire to not only understand other people’s points of view, but to empathize with them and understand their outlooks. DEI leaders are able to listen without judgment and imagine the world from other viewpoints.


There is no such thing as a DEI leader who will understand all perspectives. An excellent DEI leader will realize this. Self-awareness and humility are key characteristics for any DEI leader. DEI leaders should be aware of their unconscious biases and be able to admit their mistakes.


The job of a DEI leader can be uncomfortable at times. It can be awkward to question the status quo and to implement change. That is why a good DEI leader must be courageous. It will be their job to initiate uncomfortable conversations in order to instigate positive change.

What is a Chief Diversity Officer?

At your company, a DEI leader might have the title of Chief Diversity Officer. The Chief Diversity Officer is in charge of the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. According to a Russell Reynolds study, the demand for Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) increased dramatically in the last three years. In fact, more than half (63%) of the S&P 500 appointed or promoted CDOs.

Tips for DEI Recruitment

Leadership is not the only place in your company where your commitment to DEI should be evident. Recruitment is one of the strongest paths to change for many companies. It is also important to increase representation on as many teams and departments as possible. The good news is that conversations surrounding DEI hiring are no longer taboo. This makes it easier for systems to evaluate and adjust in order to eliminate bias and open up opportunities for more people.

One of the common struggles of DEI recruitment is the desire to hire more diverse individuals, but an inability to find diverse candidates. Many companies rely on personal referrals from current employees, but if the current employees’ networks are not very diverse, then the hiring will not be diverse.


There are some approaches to DEI recruitment and hiring that you can take. For example, some companies mandate that for every position, at least one diverse candidate is hired. Others assemble a diverse panel of interviewers to share the responsibility of hiring. Other companies measure hiring managers based on the diversity of their hires and the overall workforce.

How Marketing Professionals Can Support DEI Leaders

There are several ways that marketing leaders can support CDOs in implementing and expanding their efforts, including:

  • Partnering with the DEI leader at your organization to demonstrate the impact and importance of DEI efforts
  • Use KPIs to track the progress of your organization’s DEI efforts
  • Tout the importance of your partnership both internally and externally and activate other teams in your organization to get on board

The AMA’s Commitment to DEI and DEI Leaders

The American Marketing Association is dedicated to spearheading the movement towards more diversity, equity, and inclusion in the marketing industry and beyond. We offer a variety of virtual trainings and events like “The DEI Imperative: Fundamentals for Marketers” and “Decoding DEI for Marketers” to spearhead the education and training of marketers in these important areas. Become an AMA member today!