Asking your CEO about diversity? Use these questions.

AboveBoard | May 10, 2023

A pragmatic approach to diversity discussions with leadership.

Broaching the subject of diversity with senior leadership can feel daunting. But it doesn't have to be.

Whether you're assessing a new job opportunity or hoping to promote diversity at your current organization, initiating a discussion about diversity can help you figure out the best path forward. Oftentimes, these types of conversations can feel intimidating at the onset, but when you break down the elements—the context for the discussion, the questions to ask, and the call to action—you'll find it's much more approachable. 

That's why we've crafted this quick guide of DEI questions for leaders. Ahead, we'll walk you through the foundation diversity discussions and dive into questions to ask a CEO about diversity and inclusion and questions to ask a chief diversity officer. Read on for inclusive leadership interview questions to add to your toolkit today.  

Laying the groundwork for DEI questions for leaders

So you want to talk about diversity with senior leadership? Whether that's with a manager, director, or executive, know that these conversations matter, and they have the potential to create lasting change at your organization. Keeping your purpose, your "why," for the discussion top of mind can help with confidence and offer clarity before, during, and after the diversity discussion. 

Knowing your "why" is the first step. Next, you'll want to contextualize this conversation to the person you're speaking with. For example, this could mean explaining why diversity is important in the workforce or outlining the importance of inclusion in the workplace. In other words, think about why you're having this conversation now. And if you can clearly frame the value proposition to the leader, even better. 

For instance, if the conversation is spurred due to a specific diversity-related (or lack thereof) incident, be sure to make that known. Then, zoom out from this one instance and point to how it speaks to non-inclusive workplace culture or whatever implication/conclusion is true and relevant to the circumstance. This is just one way to set the stage before asking inclusive leadership interview questions.

Diversity and inclusion questions to ask leaders

Now that you've created a framework for your diversity discussion, it's time to get to the questions to ask a CEO about diversity. Below are examples of questions you can use to drive the conversation.

Questions to ask a CEO about diversity and inclusion

  • What does diversity and inclusion mean to you? 
  • How do you think our organization ranks in terms of diversity and inclusion? 
  • In what ways do you think our organization could be more diverse/inclusive?
  • What policies or procedures are in place in the instance of harassment or discrimination? 
  • And what would your response be if these policies/procedures are not followed?

In the course of asking these questions about diversity and inclusion, and as you sense it is appropriate to do so, offer your own perspective as well. If your ideas or experiences differ from the CEO's, that's OK. It will be helpful for them to know where you are coming from. It could be that other team members feel the same way, too.

Inclusive leadership interview questions

  • How would you define your leadership style?
  • What does inclusive leadership mean to you? And how do you try to carry that out?
  • If there were an instance where your leadership or management was perceived as not inclusive, what would be the most constructive way to offer feedback?

Questions to ask diversity and inclusion officer

Initiating a diversity discussion with a diversity and inclusion officer or Chief Diversity Officer may be one of the best ways to broach the subjects of diversity, equity, and inclusion at your organization. If your organization has a dedicated diversity team or professional, here are questions to ask the Chief Diversity Officer.

  • How would you describe your approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • How is this approach tailored to our organization specifically? 
  • What challenges do you foresee us facing as we work toward a more diverse/inclusive workplace? 
  • How will you know if the DEI plan or approach is effective? 
  • How do the Human Resources and Diversity offices work together? And how should employees discern between which office to seek out in a given circumstance? 
  • How should I approach a situation involving discrimination, harassment, microaggressions, or unconscious bias? 
  • What DEI resources do you recommend for me specifically? (Most helpful if you have an area you'd like to learn more about, e.g. implicit bias, being an inclusive team member, etc.)

Ready for diversity-forward resources and job postings? Join AboveBoard.

DEI questions for leaders are a great way to build momentum toward more diversity, equity, and inclusion at your organization. At AboveBoard, we're here to enable seasoned executives to expand their career opportunities and companies to diversify their leadership teams. We believe our members should be in control of their job searches like they are their jobs. To that end we equip members with the knowledge they need to navigate the executive recruiting process and break through to be recognized as top candidates for top roles. 

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