DEI: How Leaders Can Promote Real Change


With professionals, customers and stakeholders now calling for visible, actionable support of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), many companies are looking to strengthen their DEI strategies. Translating aspiration to real transformation is posing a tough challenge for employers.  According to a PwC multi-year global survey, while 75% of organizations are saying DEI is a value or priority, only 25% of companies have real, tangible goals and only 17% have a C-level DEI leadership role in place.

So how can companies start to move the needle on their DEI efforts? We invited HR and DEI leaders to share their insights.

“Embracing DEI goes well beyond corporate social responsibility and creating another program that fits the times,” says Roy King, Managing Director of ChampionScott Partners. “A true DEI focus goes to the heart and soul of the company — guiding its thoughts and actions, shaping its brand in order to create a culture and actionable results for transformational initiatives. Leaders who harness the power of open minds across a truly diverse eco-system will outperform the competition, and data supports this. McKinsey’s research since 2015 has found positive correlations between a workforce diversity and financial success.”

Start from the Top
“A successful DEI strategy must begin with leadership,” says Camie Shelmire, Senior Executive and Former EVP of Capgemini. “It all starts with the CEO and a board that’s committed to diversity. I know it sounds a bit like motherhood and apple pie, but you need to have a genuine drive to have diversity in your company. It all starts with your leadership team and a CEO who sets the cultural tone of that team.

Show Visible Support
To build the groundwork for meaningful organizational change, leaders must visibly support their company’s DEI strategy. Wendy Reynolds-Dobbs, Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Unisys, explains, “Companies can strengthen DEI by having C-suite leaders speak about it— in town halls, social media, LinkedIn mentions. This sends a message to the employee base … It’s also important for leaders to advocate for high potential talent. Speaking for them, enhancing their visibility, and providing opportunities to advance their career.”

Look Beyond Numbers
A robust DEI strategy takes more than numbers. Katie Ebrahimi, CHRO of Unisys, observes, “There’s a lot of work that can be done to create a diverse pipeline of talent, but that work doesn’t always lead to effective change. It’s not about the numbers; it’s about the how. We have to be agnostic about our approach. That means removing biases and barriers to entry so we can level the playing field. The goal is to create equity across the organization and give everyone an equal chance.”

Maintain Accountability
Accountability is also a crucial element to advancing DEI. “Leaders have to be able to challenge each other,” states Reynolds Dobbs. “They are the key to making real progress in DEI. It’s looking at who they give a big visibility assignment to, who gets a chance, who’s identified as a successor. And if they see a peer who potentially is being biased, they need to be able to speak up and say, “Let’s think about this another way.”

“At ChampionScott, our new DEI practice focuses on delivering the best talent for our clients to support the attainment of both their DEI and business objectives,” reports Stephanie McGuire, Principal, who leads the practice. “Over the last 18 months, we have seen a dramatic increase in diversity recruiting and we’re making real progress.  Roughly 60% of our appointments in 2021 were diversity candidates” notes McGuire. “I can assure you there is significant Board and stakeholder pressure to continue energizing this transformational change.” Adds King.

About ChampionScott Partners
ChampionScott Partners is a leading retained executive search firm focused on delivering leadership solutions for technology and technology-enabled companies, globally. Throughout every search we undertake, we apply the strategic insights of an experienced search partner, the operating skills of an internationally expert management team, and the recruiting abilities of a premiere executive search firm. For more information, please visit or contact Jackey Bennett.