- Companies are hiring leaders in DEI as it becomes increasingly important to corporate strategy.
- We spoke with leaders to get their best advice for finding work in this fast-growing field.
- They come from a wide variety of backgrounds, showing there is no one path into DEI work.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Dalana Brand, the vice president of people experience and head of inclusion and diversity at Twitter, knows that lots of people are looking to work in the fast-growing diversity, equity, and inclusion field. In addition to seeing the expansion of DEI departments, she’s frequently fielding questions from aspiring DEI leaders.
“I can’t tell you how often my phone rings with younger folks who are, like, ‘How do I get into DEI? How did you get into the DEI?,'” she told Insider. “There’s not one path.”
DEI is a growing field. Indeed estimates the number of roles companies are hiring for increased by 123% between May and September of last year. The median income for a chief diversity officer role is $126,000, according to PayScale.
InaMarie Johnson, the chief people and diversity officer at Zendesk, has been in HR for over 30 years. She took on the role of chief diversity officer in 2019, in addition to her job as chief people officer.
“It was really important to me to make sure that our DEI efforts were in the C-suite, and since I was already chief people officer reporting to the CEO, I felt like that would be the best way to ensure that all of the conversations we were having — strategy, customers, product delivery — could be aligned and threaded with the diversity, equity, inclusion,” Johnson said.
But you don’t need a background in HR. Vinay Kapoor, global head of DEI at FactSet, worked in technology until he was 30. Rajiv Desai, former head of global diversity, engagement, equity, and CSR at Gartner, worked as an auditor and financial services consultant for over a decade before getting into the field. He now works as an independent DEI consultant for small and midsize organizations.
While understanding HR and how engagement ties to the overall business strategy was a missive repeated by several DEI leaders about their job, experiences outside the business world can be helpful.
Desai talked about the opportunity to gain experience in equity work as a volunteer. Brand said those with teaching or social-work backgrounds could develop into strong DEI leaders. And JT Saunders, the chief diversity officer at Korn Ferry, reflected on how his experience as a campus tour guide prepared him.
“It really taught me how to think on my feet, to be able to quickly assess situations, read people and their emotions, and be able to change my thinking or approach,” Saunders said. “A big part of this role is spending your day talking to multiple people from different cultures, from different experiences of diverse backgrounds.”
Insider spoke with five current and former DEI leaders to get their best advice for getting into this highly desirable field.