Women in Leadership Profiles

Chantel Johnson Leads Change at Accenture Through Inclusion & Diversity Recruiting

Chantel Johnson’s parents – who immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean – laid a foundation for her life by teaching her the importance of hard work, responsibility, and commitment. As Head of Inclusion & Diversity Recruiting for North America at Accenture, Chantel applies those fundamental values to help eliminate bias in the recruiting process, increase the diversity and representation of talented professionals, and connect them to meaningful and fulfilling career opportunities.

Current Role: Empowered to Be Disruptive

Your title is Head of Inclusion & Diversity Recruiting for North America at Accenture. In very simple terms, what is the primary mission of your role?

I am responsible for ensuring equity in all steps of the recruiting process – for example, making sure that every decision a leader makes about candidates is free from bias. I also lead inclusion and diversity (I&D) sourcing responsibilities partnering with organizations, like Forté, to build pipelines of diverse candidates for career opportunities at Accenture. We want Accenture to be the employer of choice for all communities by creating environments where all our people feel they belong, can advance and thrive. It’s the right thing to do and it make us smarter, more innovative, and more attractive to top talent.

What are examples of some of your daily activities?

Every day is different as priorities may change, but some of my core activities are spending time developing my team – listening and understanding some of their challenges and clearing roadblocks so they are in a position of strength to be successful.  Accenture’s goal is to have 50/50 gender parity by 2025 and recruiting is the biggest lever we can pull to achieve this goal, so I spend a lot of time with our recruiting leaders understanding their business needs, data analytics and measuring our progress against goals ensuring we are trending in the right direction. If there are business groups that are lagging, we look at what interventions need to happen to course correct. Additionally, doing research and gaining market intel to stay abreast of new ideas and strategies that maybe other companies are doing in this space. Furthermore, networking and cultivating relationships both internally and externally and activating those relationships to draw more diverse candidates into our pipelines.

What characteristics does someone need to be successful in a role like yours?

Vision and purpose: Having a sense of purpose helps drive some of your decision making and helps you be decisive when it matters. Have a clear vision and know where you are going and how it ties to the goals of the larger organization because everything is always bigger than you.

Tenacity: Being able to stand up and make your voice heard, and say what’s important, even if it’s unpopular. A lot of people depend on my voice because sometimes I am the only woman of color in the room.

Patience: Pacing yourself, setting priorities, and celebrating small wins because progress with Inclusion & Diversity takes time.

Being empowered to be disruptive, having brave conversations about things that matter, and leading from the front gives others the courage to do the same in their roles.

What is most challenging?

It can be emotionally draining because not everyone is as interested in having difficult and brave conversations. While diversity recruiting is my day job, it is also the responsibility of everyone in the company to make decisions throughout an entire cross-functional process, which can be challenging.

Career Path: Strategist AND Activator  

What prompted you to leave high tech and take the role at Accenture six years ago?

I started my corporate recruiting career at Accenture and worked here for three years before being recruited to Google, and later I went to Uber. I learned about the kind of people who create innovative products, but the environment was a little homogeneous. I was the first black woman in my recruiting group, and inclusion was not a core business value at that time, so it was a not a match for me.

In a competitive world, what has made you stand out and advance in your profession?

What has helped me stand out and advance is being futuristic while also being an activator. I like to strategize about the art of the possible, but I can also roll up my sleeves to make things happen and turn thoughts into action.

What has been most professionally satisfying to you during your career so far?

The people I touch every day – for example, hiring the first woman or the first woman of color for a role or hiring trailblazers who inspire others who look like them. In addition, putting people in a position to sometimes double or triple their earning potential to create wealth for their families, particularly the underrepresented.

What has helped me stand out and advance is being futuristic while also being an activator. I like to strategize about the art of the possible, but I can also roll up my sleeves to make things happen and turn thoughts into action.

You have an undergraduate degree in Communications (Minor in Marketing) from Georgia State University. How have you applied your communications and marketing skills to your career?

Communications and marketing skills were put to good use when I started my recruiting career in executive search. It helped me influence organizations to sign on to work with me and trust me to find, qualify, sell and place senior candidates for some of their most difficult job searches.  Now, at Accenture, marketing and communications are a huge piece of my team’s strategy, both internally and externally.

Is there anything you would do differently on your career journey?

This is a tough one for me to answer because every opportunity, experience, and person I have met is what got me where I am today. I needed every one of those experiences

…every opportunity, experience, and person I have met is what got me where I am today. I needed every one of those experiences

Early Influences: Art and Science of Commitment and Responsibility

Where did you grow up?

In Ajax, a small city east of Toronto, and a great place to grow up. My parents immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean to provide opportunities for their kids that they didn’t have as children.

Did anyone in your upbringing have an influence on your path – professional or personal – that was particularly impactful?

My parents. They sought opportunities for me to grow and pushed me forward on the right track. They taught me the art and science of commitment, hard work, and responsibility. It stems from their faith in God and their culture which is very family-oriented. I also had teachers who saw things in me early. I attended a French language immersion school, and I was selected to go to France and Switzerland for a school trip in the 8th grade. My parents allowed me to go, and I gained so much confidence from that experience.

Did you ever dream about a career other than Recruiting?

I thought I wanted to go into law, and I was a legal assistant for many years and interned at a law office. I have always been very social and loved connecting with people, and a recruiter friend introduced me to the profession and explained the roles I could have. I love changing people’s lives and connecting talent to opportunity and improving recruiting systems to make them more equitable.

What was your very first job (where you had a W2)? What did you learn from it?

I worked at Future Shop, which is Canada’s version of Best Buy. I was a customer service rep and learned a lot about responsibility and commitment and showing up when I didn’t want to.

Women in Business: When SHE Rises, We ALL Rise

What is about Forté’s mission that makes you want to support our efforts?
I love that Forté is giving access and resources to women professionals and helping expand women leaders of the world. I truly believe when SHE rises, we ALL rise. When women come together and support each other, it is powerful.

What advice do you have for a young woman just starting out in her career in business?
Sometimes women feel pressure to be perfect, and we experience “impostor syndrome” frequently and early. “Fail forward” through trial and error and get the learnings along the way. Women need to recognize that you are not hired to be perfect. You are here because you have the potential to make the company better and personally grow along the way.

Women are more hesitant than men to apply for jobs if they don’t meet 100% of the qualifications. Job descriptions are wish lists – apply for the job!

I truly believe when SHE rises, we ALL rise. When women come together and support each other, it is powerful.

For Fun: Affinity for Real Estate  

I read in your bio that you enjoy investing in houses, fixing them up, and re-selling them. You were also featured on an HGTV show. Tell me about this!

Sixteen years ago, I was in a restaurant in Atlanta waiting for a friend. A man sat next to me, and we started talking. I had just bought my first house, it was built in 1920 and had a lot of charm, but it needed a kitchen redesign. I told him about it, and he said he was in town scouting for “Designed to Sell,” an HGTV show.  He came to my house, and three months later renovations started and they started filming. It took three or four days, and it didn’t cost me a dime. That was where my interest in real estate was birthed. Since then, my husband and I have purchased and redone more houses, and we either flip them or hold them. I have grown to enjoy the experience and the process.

Is there anything on your “bucket list” you’d be willing to share?

With my affinity for real estate and investing in properties, one day I’d like to get my feet wet on the commercial side. My husband had a restaurant for 20 years, and we are wine connoisseurs, so we think about converting a property into a restaurant or wine bar.

What was the last great book, movie, or TV show you read/watched?

The First, The Few, The Only by Deepa Purushothaman is a book about how women of color can find the power within themselves to make an impact in corporate America. I love to read books that inspire me, and I find strength through other people’s stories.

Related posts

Get newsletters and events relevant
to your career by joining Forté.

our partners