January 23, 2018 — Rohini Anand, PhD, is the Senior Vice President Corporate Responsibility and Global Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo, and Chair, Catalyst Board of Advisors. In a three-part Q&A blog series, we asked Dr. Anand to share details about her pivotal role at one of the world's largest multinational corporations focusing on “quality of life services.” Below is part one where we asked about what challenges she faces and what she believes the future holds for diversity and inclusion
What are some of the main responsibilities of your role?
The role of anyone leading global diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts and strategy is to impact culture change. My responsibility is to create a more inclusive culture at Sodexo and to position us as a good corporate citizen. As D&I change agents, we have to approach our work with a systems mindset, looking to address processes, policies and procedures, mindsets and behaviors, and, ultimately, the culture.
It is also my role to ensure that we are leaders in D&I and Corporate Responsibility (CR), and that we are branded as such. Ultimately, the role of the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) is to add value to the business in a measurable way through the D&I efforts.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
Bringing about change in a global organization with 425,000 employees in 36,000 locations, and influencing the relevance of D&I across the multiple global cultures.
This requires listening, viewing D&I through diverse cultural lenses, and figuring out the most relevant and meaningful way to implement it.
What do you find most fulfilling about your job?
Leading a passionate, committed, and talented team.
Seeing the impact that our efforts have externally in the community, as well as internally on our people, really makes me proud to be a part of this work.
Seeing mindsets and behaviors change to be more inclusive, and the resulting impact on the careers of people at Sodexo, is most gratifying.
And, ultimately, experiencing how D&I is increasingly becoming part of the fabric of who we are and our brand promise in a sustained way.
Why did you work toward this role? What drew you to this cause?
The work is part of who I am, core to my beliefs, and informed by my experiences.
Growing up in India, I was surrounded by others who looked like me, but often differed when it came to things like religious beliefs or socioeconomic class. As part of the majority, I never had to focus on my identity, which was a privilege that I never realized.
When I immigrated to the United States to go to graduate school, I was immediately reminded that I was a minority: an Asian American. I soon began to identify as such, and got a glimpse of both the opportunities and challenges associated with being a minority in the United States.
As a result, I became committed to fighting for social justice and to leveling the playing field.
Coming to work for Sodexo was an incredible opportunity to impact lives in a complex global organization with unparalleled leadership on the topic.
What do you see as the role of chief diversity officers in corporate America?
The CDO role is to understand the business strategy and align D&I objectives with that strategy in a meaningful and practical way to add value to the business. I also believe our role is to bring about internal culture change to make the culture more inclusive. To do this, CDOs need to:
Approach their work holistically and with a systems mind set.
Be able to understand people’s motivations.
Build relationships and influence across the organization.
How is the CDO role shifting/expanding?
First, given the polarizing external political landscape, organizations are turning to CDOs to help them address challenges encountered by those at both ends of the continuum.
Second, as D&I is a key component in so many areas within organizations. From communications to talent to marketing and supply chain, increasingly CDOs are picking up related areas of responsibility like talent, CR, etc.
That said, it’s important that the role continues to expand, influence, and partner with key areas such as HR, marketing, PR, communications, sales, etc.—shifting to more closely align with core business functions, in order to add value to specific business outcomes.