Corporate America Goes on a Diversity Officer Hiring Spree

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In the three months after the police killing of George Floyd touched off mass protests, new hires for chief diversity officers in S&P 500 companies jumped to as many as a dozen a month—almost triple the normal rate, according to research from executive recruiter Russell Reynolds Associates Inc. For many, it was their first diversity executive. “What’s different this time is that the whole world is focused on it,” says Tina Shah Paikeday, who leads the diversity and inclusion advisory practice at Russell Reynolds.

Companies such as McDonald’s, Microsoft, and Boeing have set specific hiring goals. International Business Machines Corp. has dropped degree requirements that had proved to be barriers to recruiting minorities. Other corporations have pledged support to groups promoting the hiring of more Black directors, executives, and employees.

The percentage of S&P 500 companies with a diversity chief is still only 53%, up from 47% in 2018, Russell Reynolds found. An oft-cited 2019 study from Boston Consulting Group Inc. found that 97% of workers say their company has a diversity program, but only 25% say they are benefiting from it.

If employees see that more diversity means a broader variety of ideas and increased likelihood of success, people will begin to get more comfortable with the changes, says Maxine Williams, chief diversity officer at Facebook Inc. “What you market this as within your company matters,” says Williams, whose job was elevated last year to place her directly on the teams with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. “This is not just a zero-sum game where you give up something and now you’re left without.” —With Lauren Pizzimenti

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