Prior to 2016, Adtalem’s board of directors and leadership team lacked diversity, with almost no people of color and very few women on the board and in senior leadership roles within the company.
After her appointment as Chief Executive Officer of Adtalem in 2016, Lisa Wardell made the intentional effort to increase diversity within Adtalem’s board of directors as well as in managerial and leadership positions. Ms. Wardell and her team no longer required that board appointees have prior board experience – a requirement that has historically kept people of color and women from being considered for board seats in the past. She also worked to increase diversity at all levels of the company by tying managers’ performance goals to diversity initiatives, including the recruitment of women and people of color.
Over the last four years, the diversity within Adtalem’s board and leadership has grown exponentially. Now, half of senior leadership roles are occupied by people of color, including Ms. Wardell, who is Black. The number of women in those roles increased from 23% in 2016 to 38% in 2020. Women and people of color account for 75% of Adtalem’s C-suite, group presidents and senior vice presidents, and the board of directors is 67% gender and ethnically diverse, with 4 of 9 board members being women and 4 of 9 being people of color.
What I've learned is it's just not as simple and easy as putting out an edict that you want to have a diverse population of leaders in your organization. You have to be intentional about programs to grow people from within and get them the skills that they need. This intentionality needs to start from the top down. At Adtalem, it’s our mission to make our leadership representative of our entire student population. As diversity and inclusion gets elevated, it’s important to have numbers that show that women and people of color are getting similar access, experience and impact.