ON Community on Meaningful Diversity Progress

Nov 23, 2021

The ON community weighs in on their progress in 2021 and what to expect in DEI initiatives moving into 2022

As a values-driven executive search firm, we believe a better experience starts with a more diverse experience. We understand that our role in placing senior executives and board members is an important driver of organizational change. As part of ON Partners’ commitment to building more diverse organizations, we’re actively listening to our community of leaders and executive influencers to understand what actions they are taking, where the challenges are, and how they have progressed in their DEI journey.

ON Partners consultants place a diverse group of senior executives with organizations across many market sectors. To date this year, 39% of all closed ON searches were diverse placements. We are proud to collaborate with organizations that are committed to their DEI progress.

The following is a summarized report from our ON community and our executive search partners on the overall DEI progress made in 2021 and what can be expected in DEI initiatives moving into 2022 across leadership teams.

Download the Report

Our Ongoing Diversity Survey


Industry leaders from the ON community – spanning private and public companies across multiple marketplace sectors including technology, consumer, life sciences, industrial, and private/growth equity – continue to respond to our ongoing DEI survey. As we’ve done in Part 01, Part 02, and Part 03 of our report, we’re sharing highlights of findings around initiatives that are underway, where the barriers are and who in our community is admired for their DEI initiatives and progress. We encourage you to complete the survey if you haven’t already done so.

Take The Survey Now!

With an average DEI success rating of 3.4 out of 5.0, survey respondents continue to recognize that while they are making progress, there is still work to be done.

Throughout 2021, survey respondents identified a range of DEI initiatives underway in their organizations, including:

  • Consciousness programs for DEI education
  • Board diversity program
  • Compensation equity/financial review
  • Employee outreach
  • Progressive annual plan including diversity hiring goals
  • Changing our culture to create more cross-functional collaboration
  • Starting a womens’ network
  • Mentoring program
  • Hiring a VP of DEI
  • Establishing a DEI council
  • Uncovering personal bias
  • Inclusive leader development/training
  • Creating diverse communities (within larger organizations)
  • Establishing defined recruitment goals

Recognizing and Breaking Barriers to Diversity


Barriers that recent survey respondents identified as hindering them from reaching their diversity goals include:

  • Access to candidates
  • Trying to balance time driving core business results with keeping team engaged in DEI initiatives
  • Attracting the right mix of people
  • Changing mindset
  • Executive-level focus/priority
  • Dedicated resources
  • Talent pipeline (tech, etc.)/attracting diverse talent
  • Education/changing culture, old practices: Reaching all levels of an organization, including the “frozen middle” (white, male managers), and making them willing to put the effort into shifting actions.
  • Ability to attract women
  • Low turnover

Barriers as described by respondents include:

“Real acknowledgment and engagement that DEI is an issue. The Board and the senior team say the right thing but do not really act on it. (They) assume that hiring one woman in any role is enough and then go back to business as it used to be.”

“The government, and ‘wokeness.’ Corporations need to stop the nonsense and realize diversity of thought is not entirely based on sex and race! In fact, it has little to do with that, and instead what’s between the ears matters more. Companies need to stand up to the silliness and defend free-market principles and meritocracy. Otherwise, everyone’s standard of living will decline.”

“Support and buy-off from owners of the company. One site is in Guatemala and culturally they are still far behind in understanding the benefits of diversity, inclusion, and equity especially as they support many US companies.”

“The predetermined notion that skill set should not be the first requirement for a position.”

“Not having enough diverse talent in the labor market with the technical skills we need. This is why our outreach effort is so important. We need to do a better job reaching young people to get them interested, excited, and prepared for technology careers.”

“An important part is the education of others on the nuances of inclusion and how we can all play our parts thoughtfully. The more we address this within the workforce, the more evident it is that there are knowledge gaps at all levels of businesses.”

Notes ON’s Tara Flickinger. “There’s no question that diverse teams work better, and stats show when a female or ethnically diverse individual joins a team it’s more productive and profitable. But the pandemic has exposed the fragility of the progress we’ve made on the diversity front for a couple of reasons: Females have been much more likely than men to leave the workforce because of the pandemic, and racially, more eliminated jobs have impacted ethnically diverse individuals.”

ON DEI Video Series


We created the “DEI in the ON community” video series to recognize organizations and leaders in our community that have made great strides in building diverse leadership teams. Tapping into our community of leaders and executive influencers helps us understand what actions they are taking, where the challenges are, and how they have progressed in their DEI journey. Videos to date feature:

Epicor Executive Vice President, CHRO/Legal Jignasha Amin Grooms

“At Epicor we approach the definition of DE&I from a global landscape by really looking at things that are going to have the most significant influence on both our culture strategy and our business strategy,” says Amin Grooms. “We wanted to make sure that our mission, vision and execution measurements were aligned around the world so that every employee no matter where they sat felt like they were aligned to Epicor’s business goals and Epicor’s higher purpose…No matter where you are in the world, no matter what generation you are, making sure that you feel inspired by your colleagues, by your leadership and that you feel aligned with the business purpose and find it to add personal and professional value is huge in the DE&I journey.”

NBA Chief People & Inclusion Officer Oris Stuart

According to Stuart, “We have to represent the fan in all aspects of our business, so for us diversity, equity and inclusion are core values and they are central to our business strategy… Just over the past year we’ve seen significant increases in the percentage of women and underrepresented minorities across our league office and at our teams, particularly at more senior levels, and it’s something we’ve been very focused on…Fundamentally, the progress we’re seeing is that the game continues to grow across the globe and gain more fans and that’s most representative of our commitment to diversity and its integration within our core business strategies.”

Papa John’s Chief People & Diversity Officer Marvin Boakye

“We wanted to create a culture that made us a place that attracted people from all different backgrounds and included them within this conversation that we were trying to create that we call Papa John’s,” notes Boakye. “There is no reason why the diversity of our workplace should not represent the communities that we serve. It makes business sense for us. It attracts great talent when they see that, and it also attracts more customers.”

Supply chain executive Christina C. Loh

Notes Loh, “A lot of women and minorities and folks of other attributes are attracted to seeing someone who doesn’t really fit in the mold and who has achieved a certain level of success, and they want to learn from that. So I think that as supply chain leaders want to build more diverse cultures, they really have to look at ensuring that the leadership is diverse, because that will attract additional diverse candidates.”

To view the full videos, visit here.

Diversity Starts at the Top

Organizations admired by survey respondents include Netflix, Proctor & Gamble, and SAP. Others mentioned as leaders in their diversity efforts include Amazon, Bank of America, IBM, Microsoft, Starbucks, and TIAA.

Notes ON’s Lynda Robey, “For any type of transition or cultural transformation, it’s critical that the CEO and C-Suite lead the way with their behavior and activity. It has a tremendous impact on the end result, more than anything else. If the CEO is out in front, participating in listening tours, actively engaging during diversity training, driving core programs to increase belonging and rewarding leaders in the organization that make tangible progress; it is very powerful.

“We see diversity and belonging programs lose traction when a CEO hires a diversity leader to the team but does not make it a key objective of every executive team member to engage and deliver on shared goals. The CEO has to be involved in leading the way to identify where organizational barriers exist and modeling new behaviors. It’s no different than when companies began their digital evolution – if the CEO walked around still using paper and pencil, it didn’t work.”

Adds ON’s Sean Cantarella, “It’s critical to move beyond diversity for diversity’s sake. Plenty of companies talk the talk, but as they move through the hiring process, all too often those who are directly responsible for hiring end up gravitating toward candidates who look and act like them. When you encounter individuals who aren’t willing to push beyond their comfort zone, it may mean having a conversation with the senior managers who have committed to diversifying their workplace to ensure that same commitment spans all levels of the organization.”

Follow our work, updates, and recent success on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Find our related successful placements of leading executives here.

About ON Partners

Since 2006, ON Partners is the only pure-play executive search firm building diverse C-level and board leadership teams. We rebuilt the institution of executive search for the way you work. Our approach includes present partners who engage with their clients from the first brief to the final decision, individually crafted solutions that are unique to each client, and an easier experience all around. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms and to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists nine times, ON Partners is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S.

Untraditional by Choice. Original by Design. Since 2006.


If you want to create a new path – ON Partners knows how to help you get there.