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Is having a chief diversity officer linked to significant gains in faculty diversity? Not really, says a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study, "The Impact of Chief Diversity Officers on Diverse Faculty Hiring," combined data on hiring of chief diversity officers with federal faculty and administrator hiring data by race and ethnicity from 2001-2016 at research and master’s degree-granting institutions with 4,000 students or more. 

“Using a wide variety of robust specifications, we are unable to find significant evidence that the presence of an executive-level CDO alters preexisting trends of increasing faculty and administrator diversity in the institutions we study,” reads the paper. “Although important progress has been made in increasing faculty and administrator diversity from 2001 to 2016, we believe more work must be done to better understand barriers to increased diversity, and how they might be best addressed.”

Steven Bradley, lead author and professor of entrepreneurship at Baylor University, said via email that higher education “has a rapidly growing trend of establishing chief diversity officers as a signal of commitment to increased faculty diversity. Given it is a key job function of the position, and there is a high [salary] price tag associated with the effort, it seemed worthwhile to examine whether there was a significant difference in diversity hiring trends before and after a CDO (or similar position) hire.” At the same time, he said, “The data only allowed us to examine hiring practices in detail. There are many other duties of a CDO -- stemming attrition, promoting a positive climate, etc. What we are able to say from our findings is we were unable to find significant deviations in long-term increasing faculty diversity when a university hired an executive level diversity officer.”