Inaugural State of the CDO

Inaugural State of the CDO

NADOHE Releases Survey Results Highlighting Challenges to Pivotal Work

August 30, 2023


  • NADOHE engaged 261 CDOs in February 2023. 
  • While nearly half of the CDOs surveyed were the first in their family to attend college, most hold a Ph.D. or a professional doctorate degree. 
  • Nearly a third of respondents (32.2%) have annual operating budgets of $39,000 or less.
  • An overwhelming number of CDOs find it “extremely challenging” to make diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes more visible on their campuses.

In a first-of-its-kind report, the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) asked chief diversity officers what it’s like to lead equity and belonging efforts on campuses in 2023. The State of the CDO Survey Report reveals that most diversity, equity and inclusion leaders hold a Ph.D. or other terminal degree and are overwhelmingly represented by those in historically marginalized communities, including women and persons of color. However, their offices are often understaffed and underfunded, and more must be done to ensure these leaders are able to provide the resources and support to students, staff and faculty who need their help. 

The report draws on a vast data set measuring insight into one’s path to the chief diversity officer role, responsibilities, level of institutional engagement and support, and what leaders see as the future of diversity, equity, and inclusion work in higher education. It offers a clear picture of the demographics, institutional role, and socio-emotional state of the CDOs across the country.

“The work of our leading diversity officers is more vital than ever,” said NADOHE President Paulette Granberry Russell. “Diversity officers play a critical role during a critical time in our country’s history. These functions, though increasingly mischaracterized as ideological, are core to the academic role of higher education in society. They assist institutions create campus communities where students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds can feel they belong, are supported, and thrive.”

The self-reported data from 261 chief diversity officers outlines how universities can better understand professionals engaged in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campuses across the country. NADOHE is committed to its work to ensure inclusive excellence is at the core of every institution of higher education, and this report speaks directly to that mission. For the purposes of the survey, the term “chief diversity officer” is used as a historically common referent and refers to a role, not a title. 

CDOs in our sample are:

  • Most CDOs have a terminal degree with 66% holding a Ph.D. or professional degree
  • Nearly half are first-generation college graduates
  • Mostly women and many are middle age
  • Increasingly diverse as Latina/o/x/e, Asian and Middle Eastern colleagues diversify a field that is predominantly Black

Their collective voices told us:

  • Nearly a third surveyed have annual operating budgets of $39,000 or less. 
  • Forty-four percent have between zero and two full-time-equivalent employees who report directly to them. 
  • Many CDOs have been immersed in higher education diversity, equity and inclusion work during their careers. Before accepting their current position, a third of respondents were previously in student affairs (33.33%).
  • The longer a CDO serves, the more likely they are to feel fulfilled in their position. 
  • The most frequently-used skills are strategic planning and implementation, building campus-wide capacity for equity and inclusion, and developing campus-wide leadership.
  • They predict that issues of mental health, campus climate and crisis management will occupy greater attention on the higher educational landscape in future years. 

 “As NADOHE continues to lead national and international conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion in postsecondary education, providing allies and institutional leaders with research and data to broaden our collective understanding of CDOs and their work is foundational to higher education’s role of creating access for as many people as possible,  toward the goals of uplifting humanity and creating a better world for all, ”said Dr. Yvette Alex-Assensoh, vice president for equity and inclusion at the University of Oregon.

The full report — developed by a group of nationally-renowned academics, administrators, and thought leaders in U.S. higher education — is available here.


The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) is the preeminent voice for chief diversity officers. As the leader of the national conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion, it investigates, influences, and innovates to transform higher education so that inclusive excellence lives at its core.