Chief diversity officers say they're being given more resources now. Here's how to land a job in the growing field, according to execs at LinkedIn, Citi, Twitter, and more.


Long before KeyAnna Schmiedl became the highest-ranking diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at Wayfair, her middle-school teacher laughed off a racist microaggression.

LinkedIn's DEI leader, Rosanna Durruthy, remembers being excluded from professional spaces because of her brown skin early in her career.

Vinay Kapoor, head of DEI at FactSet, didn't reveal that he was gay for years earlier in his career because of homophobic comments he'd heard from colleagues at a previous workplace. 

These executives experienced marginalization and wanted to make the professional world more just.  

"The way that we can impact people's lives, their careers, change the economic opportunity for families, for generations — I find that extremely rewarding," Erika Irish Brown, DEI head at Citi, told Insider. 

As more consumers, employees, and investors demand change in corporate America, DEI executives are being tasked with creating massive change in business, and demand for these positions is growing. Diversity and inclusion managers ranked second on LinkedIn's Jobs on the Rise 2022 report. And those in the field say their role has been given more visibility, resources, and power over the past year, according to a May 2022 survey by leadership consultancy Korn Ferry of some 350 diversity consultants. 

Broadly, a diversity officer spearheads efforts to attract and retain top talent from all backgrounds, manages programs and policies that foster equitable company culture, and supports company leadership in all DEI-related topics, like creating more accessible offices and increasing supplier diversity. LinkedIn listed a typical salary range of $60,000 to $145,000 for diversity and inclusion managers. 

A DEI exec's to-do list varies from day to day. But spearheading initiatives like employee feedback surveys and pay-equity reports, organizing employee resource groups, and working with HR to expand benefit offerings are regular tasks. 

Insider spoke with nine DEI leaders who said that while there's no one way of getting into DEI, there are several steps one can take, including online courses, volunteer work, involvement in equity work, HR experience, and more. 

The nonlinear journey

A headshot of Rosanna Durruthy standing inside of an office
Rosanna Durruthy, head of DEI at LinkedIn, says getting involved with your employer's ERG is a great way to show you care about equity. 

Many jobs involve a clear path or set of college majors and entry-level jobs that make the most sense. A banker usually studies finance, takes an internship at a bank or investment firm, and then lands an entry-level job. That's not the case for workers in DEI. There's no direct path to landing a role.

If you're a mid-career professional looking to transition into DEI, executives said gaining experience leading an employee resource group, taking a certificate course in DEI leadership, or completing free LinkedIn courses are ways to help your résumé stand out. Find ways to connect your work experience to themes of influence, business strategy, and management.

"I'd certainly be interested in someone who's taken the time to develop their skill sets in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging through taking online courses or even volunteering or mentoring," Durruthy said. 

Volunteering for a nonprofit or business that gets involves contact with people who are different from you is a great way to show you're passionate about creating change, executives said. It doesn't need to be corporate work to help you understand interpersonal interactions and how to help people.

Start creating change now

Durruthy also recommended trying to create change within your own company, regardless of your role. For example, if there's no gender-neutral bathroom, work with HR to advocate for one. If your company doesn't have an ERG for workers from a certain underrepresented group, consider making one. As with any other business discipline, you want to provide a portfolio of accomplishments.

"Have the curiosity to ask questions, to understand what enables individuals to succeed. And when you don't see that happening in your environment or your team, yes, step up and suggest that change," Durruthy said.  

DEI leaders can study a number of subjects in college before taking on the role. For example, Citi's Erika Irish Brown studied finance. Schmiedl studied human services. FactSet's Kapoor studied technology. LinkedIn's Durruthy studied government and humanities. 

Study something you're passionate about, leaders said. If you don't know what industry you'd like to work in, DEI leaders suggested exploring a degree in management, human resources, or organizational psychology. Starting out in human resources can set you up for a career in DEI leadership, executives said. But, they added, that HR experience isn't a requirement. 

Develop and demonstrate

The top skills to be an effective chief diversity officer, according to Gartner research, are the ability to influence others, the ability to bring about change within an organization, communication skills, and collaboration. 

Dalana Brand, vice president of people experience and head of inclusion and diversity at Twitter, said empathy is a key to success in the field. It's crucial to understand people from different backgrounds, create shared goals, and communicate sensitively. 

For Durruthy, job applicants who convey they have leadership skills, problem-solving skills, and an ability to make change stand out to her. Being the captain of a sports team, a campus tour guide, or a club leader indicates to her that the applicant is able to inspire others and create trust among teams — skills that are crucial in DEI. 

JT Saunders, the chief diversity officer at Korn Ferry, emphasized the importance of understanding the business's strategy, specifically the "connection between engagement and business results."

Rajiv Desai, the former head of diversity at Gartner echoed the need to really understand the priorities of every business unit. "Say I want to roll out a new supplier-diversity program. It's not just corporate finance. I've got to talk to my supply team. I've got to talk to the marketing team," he said. 

Succeeding in the role 

A headshot of Twitter's Dalana Brand
Twitter's Dalana Brand said her role offers a real sense of purpose and community. 

DEI work can be exhausting. Many DEI leaders are people of color, which adds a personal layer of stress, especially when DEI policies are met with criticism, leaders have previously told Insider. This can also lead to burnout and, in the worst cases, fast turnover. 

"The chief diversity officer is there to put the roof on the house, but sometimes CDOs are brought in to build the walls and lay the foundation," Kapoor said. "A lot of my peers spend so much time convincing the organization why they need to be on the DEI journey that there's no time to do anything else." 

In order for chief diversity officers to feel empowered to make a change, it's important they have a direct line to senior leadership. Having access to your company's CEO and board will make your job much easier because you can work with them to discuss challenges and drive companywide support, said Isa Notermans, who was the global head of diversity at Spotify for five years. She called it a "big red flag" if you are unable to have those conversations before taking on the role.

DEI leaders who succeed in the role communicate effectively with stakeholders and inspire others to take ownership of their role in creating change. In many cases, this is more of a mission than a job, and it includes the responsibility to be an evangelist and an advocate for DEI at all times, even when it requires challenging others.

Develop your network

In addition to having a working relationship with the CEO and the board, successful DEI leaders regularly consult with other industry leaders and experts to discuss best practices and new theories. 

"It's incredibly helpful to have peers that you can bounce ideas off from or to learn and grow on those things together," Brand said. "This is really tough work, and sometimes a phone call is just to offer fellowship and support to one another."

Most DEI leaders are working on the same universal mission and have a stronger inclination to network and share strategies. The future is bright for advancement in corporate inclusion as long as companies' efforts continue to grow.

"I think it's going to take all of us collectively to partner to work on this," Brand said. "No one company is going to solve this by themselves."

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