Why Chief Diversity Officers (CDO) Need to Step Their Game Up

by Dr. Denise O'Neil Green | October 20, 2020 10:20 AM

Dr Denise O'Neil Green | Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion | Ryerson University
Dr. Denise O’Neil Green, Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion, Ryerson University

Seven years ago (January 29, 2013) I did a post titled: “What is as Chief Diversity Officer (CDO)?”.  I had been in my new post at Ryerson University for about five months as its inaugural, Assistant Vice President/Vice Provost of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).  As such, my mandate was to provide leadership, advocacy, and coordination for the institution such that all members of the university community have the opportunity to learn, work, and teach in an inclusive environment that enables them to strive for excellence and reach their potential. The EDI framework I advanced at the time focused on applying an EDI lens to the organization’s policies, procedures, practices and programs in the same way a Chief Academic Officer or Chief Financial Officer sets the strategic path for the organization’s academic plan or financial plan.  Further, to clarify what this new emerging position in the postsecondary sector was, I articulated three (3) top characteristics: Leader, Advocate, and Coordinator.

In light of pressing issues facing universities since 2013, and now as they grapple with the challenges of this new 2020 decade, the Chief Diversity Officer in turn, must step up their game to meet the demands and expectations of their respective stakeholders and communities while successfully operating within a structure which inherently minimizes and opposes the role.  That said, I am adding three (3) more characteristics to the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) profile: Disruptor, Visionary, and Facilitator.

While there is much more that can be said about the Chief Diversity Officer, the role is even more vital than when I first wrote about it in 2013.  Its placement within an organization can dictate its potential success or utter failure.  Although it is no longer new to the postsecondary education sector, it continues to be fraught with obstacles, but, if implemented well, EDI and human rights can be the spark to disrupt and facilitate a vision to finally achieve inclusive excellence.

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