2023 Top 50: Avoiding Burnout: Instilling Sustainability in Diversity Leaders and Their Work

The challenges facing Chief Diversity Officers at this moment are significant. At our annual Top 50 event, Kim Jenkins, Special Advisor to the CEO at Fair360, formerly DiversityInc, spoke to leaders about how to navigate those challenges and keep progress moving forward from the CDO’s office.  

The session began with Susan Stith, retired Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at The Cigna Group (No. 14 on the 2023 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list), giving a talk about diversity fatigue and how to avoid burnout. She discussed the evolution of workplace fairness over the past 20 years, highlighting the shift from policies focused on non-discrimination and EEO to DEI as a driver of innovation, growth and strong business results. 

Stith also discussed the emotional, physical and mental toll that DEI work can take on practitioners, especially when met with resistance to initiatives, changing priorities and employees expecting immediate action. She stressed the importance of DEI work, not just as the right thing to do, but also as a competitive advantage for companies, leading to more profitability, innovation and growth.  

She was followed by Randall Tucker, Executive Vice President and Chief Inclusion Officer at Mastercard (No. 1 on the 2023 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list). He shared personal examples of making decisions that prioritized his mental health and self-worth, which ultimately led to better opportunities and respect from executives. He highlighted the importance of being an authentic leader and visible role model, such as coming out as a gay executive.  

As leaders and proponents of workplace fairness, Tucker believes they play a pivotal role in helping to bring people closer together and building the best, most dynamic teams for innovation and problem-solving. However, he emphasized that diversity leaders must take care of themselves first and put their own oxygen masks on before helping others. He provided four key points for diversity leaders to consider: believe in yourself, develop critical business skills, add value to organizations that care and take time out for self-care. He also gave some advice about salary negotiations.  

“Negotiate your salary based on your market worth and then add another 20% to it because everybody else is doing it, too,” Tucker said. “For those experts in this field, get your coins. Leave nothing on the table.” 

The pair then sat with Jenkins for a panel discussion to further dig into the topic. Watch the video to view the full session. Click here for more articles, photos and videos from the 2023 Top 50 event.