Do Chief Diversity Officers Intrinsically Marginalize Diversity Efforts?

siloIn a recent article on expanding diversity and inclusion in higher education and on college and university campuses, (“Campus Diversity: Beyond Just Enrollment”), Mary Hinton from Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York, commented that:

“I’m conflicted about diversity offices.  I’ve been a chief diversity officer. On the one hand, you’re isolating diversity as separate from the rest of what the institution should be doing. The advantage is that you have a person or people dedicated to addressing the issue. The disadvantage is that diversity is not embedded into the fiber of what you’re doing; it’s siloed, rather than saying this is vital to our day-to-day work. Things that are vital are embedded throughout the institution.”

Having watched the silo effect take place in one small nonprofit organization, I can attest to the fact that there is a risk for diversity and inclusion to become one person’s job and not incorporated into the fabric of an organization.  Likewise, the person in charge of promoting diversity and inclusion can become easily dismissed, perhaps viewed as strongly and liberally biased if they don’t have the visible commitment and inclusive leadership from the executive.

For diversity and inclusion professionals, what have your experiences been with this silo effect and what are some ways to protect against this potentially inherent risk?

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