November 8, 2017 – Chief diversity officers are now considered part of most every competitive organization’s senior management team, and operations of all kinds are lining up to bring these highly sought after leaders on board. Search firms have become increasingly well equipped and well-networked throughout the space.
One sector that has seen growing demand for top drawer diversity leadership is academia. Recruitment firm Witt/Kieffer was recently tapped, for instance, by both Pratt Institute in New York City and West Chester University of Pennsylvania to find diversity leaders. Consultants Charlene Aguilar and Khalilah Lawson are leading both assignments.
Pratt Institute is looking to fill the role of its inaugural chief diversity and inclusion officer, who will lead campus-wide efforts to advance inclusion and institutional equity. The officer will head the newly-created office of diversity and inclusion and partner with members of the Pratt community on its priorities toward achieving institutional excellence through equity and inclusion, said Witt/Kieffer.
Founded in 1887, Pratt prepares its students for careers in art, design, architecture, information, and liberal arts and sciences. With an enrollment of over 4,700 domestic and international students, the school recognizes the strength that stems from a diversity of perspectives, ideas, backgrounds, approaches, and experiences, said the search firm.
Pratt is looking for someone with a strong background in diversity and inclusion, preferably having worked in a complex institutional environment. The incoming executive must have at least seven years of related experience in student affairs, diversity and inclusion, equity and multicultural affairs.
Here’s the Single Biggest Challenge Facing Diversity Leaders
Those who step into a new job as chief diversity officer tend to carry a heavy load. Theirs is an increasingly vital role. The challenges they face are complex and the demands of the position are many, with pressure coming from all sides.
West Chester University
West Chester University is also seeking candidates for its first chief diversity and inclusion officer. The individual will serve as the catalyst and convener to oversee and coordinate campus-wide efforts to enhance, cultivate and support a more inclusive educational community and workplace environment, said Witt/Kieffer. The successful candidate will be expected to serve as an advisor, leader and champion, with the ultimate goal of creating a shared vision and fostering inclusion as an active and visible campus and community presence.
Founded in 1871 as an institute for teacher preparation, West Chester University today is a comprehensive public institution, offering more than 118 undergraduate and 103 graduate programs in more than 50 fields of study.
The school is seeking an innovative and strategic thinker with a broad vision for the role of diversity in achieving institutional excellence, Witt/Kieffer said. Candidates should have an in-depth knowledge of theory and practice in organizational diversity and inclusion, human development, training and change management. They must also have an excellent track record in managing change, and proven experience as an organizational leader and program builder, particularly around initiatives that promote diversity, equity, access, inclusion and dialogue around social justice.
Ms. Aguilar, who is part of Witt/Kieffer’s education practice, conducts searches for college and university presidents, chancellors, provosts and deans, in addition to key positions in advancement, academic and student affairs, enrollment and admissions. She also brings considerable knowledge and experience to diversity and inclusion initiatives across the spectrum of independent secondary schools along with public and non-profit enterprises.
Ms. Lawson, also a member of Witt/Kieffer’s education practice, has more than a decade of experience in executive search. She supports recruitments for college, university, and preparatory school presidents, provosts, deans and other academic leadership functions.
Key Activities to Drive Diversity and Inclusion Strategies
While diversity and inclusion initiatives have become a “must-have” for 21st century employers, successful ones are often contingent upon having a clear plan and framework that resonates with diverse talent and aligns with overall business goals.
Chief Diversity Officer Searches
Witt/Kieffer is part of a growing contingent of executive search firms that focus on the identification, recruitment and assessment of chief diversity officer leaders. In most instances, these recruiters have specialists devoted to the role and augment their search work with culture shaping assessments and leadership planning.
“Chief diversity officers are extremely important across the spectrum,” said Edie Fraser, CEO of STEMconnector and its Million Women Mentors Initiative. She also serves as vice chairman of Diversified Search, another recruitment leader in the field. “Their roles have shifted to ensuring diverse talent as a primary role although they oversee outreach with organizations and are also often dotted lined to marketing and to supplier diversity for procurement.” Diversity officers, she added, are today “considered part of the business team.” And institutions of higher learning, in particular, are committed to bringing them on board.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media