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How CMOs Can Take a Lead on Internal DEI Efforts

By Rachel Smith | March 14, 2022 | 0 Comments


Marketing functions have the opportunity to play a unique and outsized role in advancing the impact of DEI efforts for both the customer and employee. Customer-centricity has always been marketing’s focal point, and customers want to see themselves and their values reflected in the brands they buy from – 40% of customers say they have researched a brand’s D&I efforts before making a purchase (see DEI: Why and How CMOs Must Take a Lead Role on This Critical Business Initiative). With that said, to authentically achieve external DEI goals, marketing functions must first look internally at their own team composition, recruiting practices, and efforts for inclusion.

Measure the composition of your marketing workforce and track attrition.

As you measure the composition of your marketing organization, critically evaluate the discrepancies in career advancement of underrepresented associates compared to their peers. For instance, the Association of National Advertisers’ 2021 Diversity Report for the Advertising/Marketing Industry found that the gender of marketing staff skews female for every job level. However, the higher the job level, the lower the percentage of women: women make up 70.8% of employees at the entry-level, compared to just 54.8% at senior levels. Ask the following questions of your marketing organization:

  • Are you investing in upskilling? (see How to Upskill Marketing Talent in a Cost-Constrained Environment)
  • Do you provide productive mentorship programs? 
  • Are you proactive about asking qualified internal candidates from diverse backgrounds about applying for open positions?
  • Do you offer flexible work options that would benefit caretakers?

Embed DEI into the recruiting process to increase the diversity of candidates.

Marketing is hiring– Gartner TalentNeuron data shows a 160% increase in marketing roles posted since 2020, and LinkedIn reports a 177% increase in the number of remote marketing jobs. Work with HR to broaden the talent pool by redesigning the screening and assessment process to hire for skills rather than credentials. Ask the following questions of your marketing organization:

  • Are you evaluating internal candidates for open positions based on skills rather than comparison to prior candidates?
  • Are you using DEI language in your job listings (e.g., emphasis on tuition reimbursement, diversity, and collaboration)?
  • Have you established partnerships with colleges, universities and networking groups that focus on underrepresented groups (e.g., HBCUs)?
  • Are you aligned with HR on which DEI Metrics to Track and Report for your organization?

Equip managers and leaders with tools for inclusion.

Gartner’s 2019 D&I Benchmarking Survey found that while 90% of organizations reported having a D&I strategy in place, just 27% of employees indicated their organizations inform them of opportunities to promote inclusion in daily work. CMOs should work with HR partners to build and distribute tools that will contextualize DEI goals and actions for marketing specifically. For instance, marketing functions may need guidance on creating an inclusive virtual environment, given the decline in pure-office work (only 7% of marketers prefer to work purely in-office1). Ask the following questions of your marketing organization:

  • Do you promote involvement in ERGs?
  • Do you offer experiential programs within marketing?
  • Have you broadened the scope of DEI initiatives to include LGBTQ employees’ specific needs?


On top of the clear ethical imperatives driving the need and desire for improved DEI, inclusive marketing teams also deliver better results to the business. Specifically, Gartner predicts that 75% of organizations with a diverse and inclusive frontline decision-making culture will exceed their financial targets by delivering better performance, employee engagement, and innovation. Leverage our research linked here or schedule an inquiry to further discuss this topic.


1 Gartner Marketing and Communications Organization Survey, 2022

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