Chief Equity Officer

Chief Equity Officer

Urban Institute

Washington, DC   |   November 12, 2021

About Urban Institute

At the Urban Institute, we believe in the power of evidence to improve lives and strengthen communities. As a nonprofit focusing on social and economic policy, our researchers and policy entrepreneurs open minds, shape decisions, and identify transformative solutions to the most pressing issues of our time.

Our Mission

To open minds, shape decisions, and offer solutions through economic and social policy research.

Our Values


Whether working with fellow Urban Institute colleagues or partnering with communities, we strive to build teams with diversity of thought, background, and experience. We seek to maintain a culture of mutual respect where everyone feels their contributions are valued.


Our staff members are united by the belief that all people—regardless of income, race or ethnicity, education, or zip code—should have the chance to achieve their highest potential. We are committed to interrogating and mitigating structural racism in society and within our workplace.


In our research, we embrace lived experience as a form of evidence, knowing it is important for conducting high-quality, authentic analysis. Within Urban, we seek to build a culture of belonging, where people feel they can bring their whole selves to work.


Urban does not have an agenda, ideological or otherwise, nor do we take institutional positions on issues. Staff members have autonomy to pursue new ideas, and they are empowered and supported to share their own evidence-based views and policy recommendations.


Experts are committed to following the facts wherever they lead, offering solutions to societal and policy challenges that are rooted in rigorous research. Our strong policies and cultural norms ensure the conclusions of our experts are rooted in evidence and free from outside influence, and that we are transparent about our funding sources.

For more information on the Urban Institute, please visit

The Opportunity

Urban is seeking its inaugural Chief Equity Officer (CEqO) to provide vision and leadership across all aspects of the organization’s strategies and efforts to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion. Reporting directly to the President, Sarah Rosen Wartell, the CEqO will work closely with the Executive team and the Senior Leadership team made up of all the Institute’s Vice Presidents. The CEqO will coordinate across the policy research centers, operational offices, DEI Council, equity-related method and practice groups (like the Racial Equity Analytics Lab, Community Engaged Methods group, and other projects coordinated by a new Office of Race and Equity Research), and affinity groups to build upon momentum and current strategies. The CEqO will lead development of the next generation of a shared action plan that is clear, measurable, impactful, and fosters an organizational culture which provides agency, transparency, and shared accountability and offers continuous opportunities for learning and growth. The CEqO will be responsible for driving execution of the plan while serving as the principal advocate for equity and inclusion at Urban, training and supporting Urban’s leadership and staff to foster inclusion, and motivating and inspiring all staff to sustain commitment to DEI principles over time.

Like many institutions around the country, Urban’s thinking continues to evolve on how to reckon with principles of equity both in society and within our organizational climate and culture. Part of that work has included an internally developed Race and Equity Framework (version 1.0) to describe the organization’s current approach to promoting racial equity and becoming the broadly inclusive institution we envision. The Framework outlines current goals, theories of change, and priority activities aimed at addressing urgent issues and initiating longer-term change. Framework 1.0 includes three major goals:

  • Climate: Urban will identify and seek to remedy racism and discrimination’s impact within our own institution and strive to practice anti-racism in the workplace.
  • Content: Urban will expand capacity and build bodies of work to address structural racism and discrimination and increase racial justice and equity across all the domains in which Urban works.
  • Culture: Urban’s culture will foster trust and learning, encourage openness to change, even when uncomfortable, provide transparency, and promote individual and collective accountability.

Urban is actively moving forward with many of the Framework’s 26 priority activities. The CEqO will find therefore, a foundation upon which they can build for the next chapter. For example, the Centers and offices are each being supported to make their own DEI plans, drawing upon shared resources and best practices, although they are eager for additional leadership, support, and guidance. The new Office of Race and Equity Research is bringing in a great range of equity-oriented research projects, some of which will create new opportunities for staff development; and the cohort of eight Equity Scholars, formally arriving in January 2022, will expand the number of researchers with expertise on structural racism, providing further leadership and commitment across Urban’s policy domains. Finally, Urban management’s pledge to spend $5M in internal resources above prior spending levels on Framework related activities between 2020-2022, and the Urban Board’s commitment of a special $2M draw from the endowment for the Equity Scholars are indicia of the institutional commitment that the CEqO will find.

There is not just one solution and there is understanding and realistic expectations that this work takes time and will extend over multiple years. Urban will deploy as many tools as possible to seed innovation and make change, gaining understanding and insight along the way. We named this Framework “1.0” because it will continue to evolve in response to this learning. The CEqO will have an influential and critical role in leading the organization to develop version 2.0 of the Race and Equity Framework and design strategic action efforts to create a sustainable infrastructure for DEI throughout the Institute.

Candidate Profile

The CEqO will bring deep expertise around DEI practices and principles with experience driving change and building culture in large, complex organizations. They will be a strategist, communicator, and facilitator who can create a vision and road map for achieving that vision, and the collective buy-in and accountability required to achieve organizational change.

With the understanding that no one person will offer every desired skill and characteristic outlined below, compelling candidates will offer much of the following:

Strategic Vision and Leadership

The CEqO will be the primary architect in designing and executing an overarching plan for a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization. The CEqO will play an essential organizational leadership role and work in close collaboration with the senior leadership team and the President to assess current DEI plans and initiatives that will inform the Race and Equity Framework 2.0. In collaboration with staff, including affinity groups and the DEI council, the CEqO will create a common vision and language around DEI. This person will have a track record of advancing DEI, including race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, ideally in a variety of sectors including nonprofit, private, and/or academic. They will have a proven ability to translate strategic thinking about complex challenges and organizational gaps into executable plans to deliver on strategic imperatives and solve problems large and small, and measure progress toward goals.

Change Management

The CEqO will be a change agent with a creative approach towards development of new DEI strategies and initiatives. Moving the organization into the next phase of its DEI journey will require a change manager who is innovative, inspirational, and an effective communicator to excite and engage staff at all levels and areas of the institute. The CEqO will work to find effective, ongoing mechanisms for broad staff engagement and input on Urban’s race and equity efforts. This leader will be a process thinker with the ability to leverage evaluation and analytics to measure impact while being flexible enough to respond to new priorities as they arise. They will advise on establishing clear, timely, and transparent metrics for success of new processes, plans, and initiatives and will apply a rigorous approach to accountability. This person will have a demonstrable track record of success in driving organizational change and results, including in large, complex institutions. The CEqO will have a background in integrating DEI throughout organizational policies, practices, management, and culture. Additionally, as the lead in building capacity for organizational DEI strategies including budget, staffing, and discretionary funds, they will have experience managing complex projects and budgets.

DEI Advocate and Facilitator

The CEqO will be the lead advocate to the President and Board of Directors to champion the DEI efforts throughout Urban. Through expert facilitation, this leader will coach and inspire Urban staff to action around key efforts to advance a more equitable and inclusive culture. The CEqO will bring a nuanced knowledge of the evolving DEI landscape to advise all staff on best practices to enhance DEI goals throughout the ongoing efforts and operations of the organization. They will provide support and training to Vice Presidents and their staff as they progress in their learning and confidence to address issues related to DEI within their respective Centers. With a significant background as a thought leader in the field, they will bring experience in building learning and development systems that support and advance DEI principles.

Communications and Relationship Builder

The CEqO will be skilled at building trust and sustaining transparency with diverse constituencies throughout all levels of Urban. They will be able to share a compelling vision for DEI that will generate enthusiasm and support. This leader will be a natural collaborator with an ability to work in partnership and motivate others across the Board’s DEI committee, staff DEI council, affinity groups, and Centers. This emotionally intelligent leader will successfully convey Urban’s DEI mission, impact, and objectives. A thoughtful and patient communicator, they will strengthen Urban’s efforts to establish shared norms and vocabulary around DEI. The CEqO will have an aptitude to take risks, see opportunities, and pivot when called for by circumstances.

Compensation & Benefits

Urban offers a competitive annual salary for this role, commensurate with qualifications and experience. Urban is committed to supporting our staff’s physical, emotional, and financial well-being through a robust benefits package for yourself, eligible dependents, and domestic partners. It includes generous paid time off, including nine federal holidays, medical (including prescription), dental, and vision insurance, and transit benefits. Urban is unique in that we offer 403(b) retirement plan participation immediately upon hire and a generous employer contribution after five months of service and 1,000 hours, with immediate vesting. You’ll also have access to a health advocate, personal finance coaching, an Employee Assistance Program, and educational assistance for undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Urban Institute has exclusively retained Koya Partners to help in this hire. To express interest, please submit a compelling letter of interest and resume to Molly Brennan, Shelby Woods, and Martens Roc here.

Urban is committed to workplace diversity and inclusion. Urban is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in hiring or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity and expression, marital status, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world. For more information about Koya Partners, visit