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The chief diversity officer (CDO) is an organization’s executive level diversity and inclusion strategist. According to journalist Bill Picture, about 20% percent of Fortune 500 companies employ diversity officers. Steve O. Michael, Kent State University’s Vice President of Diversity Initiatives developed a database in 2006 with roughly 400 diversity officers on college and university campuses. About 80 had the chief diversity officer (CDO) title.
The chief diversity officer serves in an executive level leadership role. According to Billy E. Vaughn, PhD, a history of cultural diversity pioneer work conducted by university professors, cultural diversity consultants, and human resource officers precedes the chief diversity officer. Less than 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies employed diversity officers in 2005, but that number has grown considerably since then. Only recently has there been discussion about the appropriate background education and credentials the diversity officer needs. In the business sector, the role remains tied to human resource management functions. Higher education chief diversity officers tend to have doctoral degrees. The future of the role will be largely determined by the same conditions that have given rise to the profession—changing demographics.