No one was as surprised as Susan Gordon when she answered her phone one day to be told it was the Pentagon, calling to see if she’d be interested in coming in for an interview regarding the Chief Diversity Officer position.
“I was shocked,” Gordon said, “but the job just sounded so interesting. The Army had taken their diversity initiatives to a certain level and [they] were looking for assistance from a diversity and inclusion expert to help them move into diversity best practices.”
She passed all of their demanding requirements with flying colors and is now the Chief Diversity Officer and Highly Qualified Expert (HQE) for the United States Army. In her role, Gordon has worldwide responsibility for diversity and inclusion for the Total Army, military, and civilian, including Active, Reserve, and the Army National Guard (approximately 1.2 million people).
“It can feel surreal at times,” she admitted, “going to meetings at the White House or just going to work in the Pentagon still seems amazing to me at times. It is an honor and a pleasure to serve my country working for the United States Army.”
While the level of her professional achievements can feel a bit overwhelming—Gordon knows that the challenges of effective diversity and inclusion practices are continuous.
“At its core, it’s a collaborative process,” she explained. “It’s about executing a strategic plan that becomes second nature to every aspect of a business, from linking diversity and inclusion to the overall strategic plan, to training and development and retaining employees, to everything in between.”
Gordon’s background in the corporate world, previous to joining the Army, gave her plenty of valuable experience in implementing effective diversity and inclusion policies. In fact, she has more than twenty years of diversity, inclusion, leadership development, and human resources leadership experience at several Fortune 500 companies including Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion for Microsoft, Senior Vice President of HR for TD Bank, Vice President of the Corporate Law Office, Vice President of Human Resources and Director of Talent Management for Bank of America, and Assistant Vice President of Corporate Diversity Staffing for the TJX Companies, Inc.
When it comes to judging the success of her diversity and inclusion strategies, practices, and programs, Gordon only has to look at her numerous diversity, inclusion, and leadership awards and honors. She has amassed several awards in recognition of her outstanding performance in the field of diversity and inclusion.
Gordon explained, then added with a laugh, “I’ve been with the Army for more than two years and I still get calls from people I worked with in the Corporate world asking for diversity and inclusion advice, so I must be doing something right.”
As for giving advice to the next generation of Diversity Officers, Gordon has three simple words of wisdom to share: Pull, don’t push.
“You always want to lead organizations in the right direction by understanding the business—linking diversity and inclusion strategies to the bottom line, supporting senior leaders and demonstrating value and results.”