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Pittsburgh-area companies move to fill chief diversity roles

When Dollar Bank announced on Tuesday that it had hired Paul David Spradley as its assistant vice president of diversity and inclusion after a search that began last October, it was the latest in what appears to be accelerated appointments by Pittsburgh-area companies, nonprofits, universities and professional services firms seeking to put a structure in place to develop policies to attract and retain an increasingly diverse workforce.

Dollar Bank’s search may be an example of what more local companies and organizations will do in the coming months. Studies indicate that demand for CDOs or diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) professionals is rising. The visibility has increased in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in late May while in police custody as citizens across the country cried out for equality and businesses say they will make changes.

These positions have existed in the local marketplace for more than a decade. K&L Gates LLP was the first law firm in Pittsburgh and possibly the first in the country to appoint a CDO in 2003. UPMC hired its first CDO in 2008, although it had an office of diversity for many years prior.

In March 2019, a study released by management consultants Russell Reynolds Associates said 47% of the companies on the S&P 500 Index had a CDO or equivalent and that almost two-thirds had been appointed or promoted within the past three years.

In the legal sector, Lori Carpenter, president of Pittsburgh-based Carpenter Legal Search, said it’s not at present receiving requests specifically for CDOs, but that clients are asking for “a diverse slate of candidates” to be presented for each search the recruitment firm is engaged to facilitate and foster the culture of inclusion.

“We take these requests seriously as an equal opportunity employer, always recruiting to offer our clients an entire picture of what talent is available in the market,” she said. “Having a chief diversity officer on the client end to spearhead and promote diversity and inclusion efforts with their employees from within further assists us in our recruiting top talent to the organization and also helps them with retention.”

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