Role of Chief Diversity Officer With Diversity Council

January 1, 2011 12:00 am

Diversity councils are becoming increasingly important—and increasingly high-level, with more and more companies on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity using their direct reports to the CEO as a council.

How often should the councils meet? Sixty-six percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 meet quarterly, while 28 percent meet monthly, a percentage that goes up every year.

And what should the relationship be with the chief diversity officer? Our research with 15 companies with exemplary councils reveals that in 13 of the 15, the chief diversity officer is a standing member of the council, and in all cases, the CDO frequently presents to the council, as do members of the diversity staff.

One company in which the CDO doesn’t always participate with the council is Prudential Financial (No. 9 on The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50). Prudential’s council has been in existence for more than 10 years and consists of Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld and his direct reports. But Chief Diversity Officer Emilio Egea is not a standing member of the council, although he frequently presents to it. “We want diversity to be second nature to our folks when it comes to business planning, people processes,” he says.

Prudential, however, is the exception, not the rule. Most CDOs attend every session of the diversity council and use the opportunity to gain senior buy-in to their goals for their department and the company.

Raymond Arroyo, chief diversity officer at Aetna (No. 24), facilitates diversity-council meetings, which are held every six to eight weeks and are always attended by either Chairman and CEO Ronald A. Williams or President Mark Bertolini, and sometimes both. Everyone presents at the meetings and goals are set based on the agenda. Williams sets the goals and Arroyo reviews the agenda and sets specific objectives for each meeting.

At Sodexo (No. 2), Senior Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer Rohini Anand is a member of the Diversity Leadership Council, chaired by President and CEO George Chavel, and she chairs the Cross-Market Diversity Council, for which Chavel is the executive sponsor. The leadership council focuses more on strategy, while the cross-market council focuses more on implementation.

At AT&T (No. 4), Senior Vice President of Talent Development and Chief Diversity Officer Cindy Brinkley talks at least quarterly to the council, chaired by Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, and discusses strategy and results. She also has her own Chief Diversity Officer’s Forum, comprised of representatives at the vice-presidential level (one or two levels down from the executive council). Business units also have their own councils.

“Our agenda is to review our scorecard and assess attraction, retention and promotion for gender and race. We also review business participation at all the conferences, who has been identified to speak as panelists, strategic partnerships, and we review our internship program. We also look at ERGs, leadership development,” notes Tara Amaral, chief diversity officer and vice president of talent acquisition for Automatic Data Processing (No. 27).

At Cox Communications (No. 25), Mae Douglas, executive vice president and chief people officer, works on the agenda for the council meetings. The council is chaired by President Pat Esser. The first half of the meeting is usually education and an outside speaker, while the second half is a debrief of goals plus an action plan, often involving three to five subteams.