Diversity & Inclusion

Lived Experiences Lead to Big, Bold Moves

In our long-running series of profiles on chief diversity officers (CDOs), we often find that those holding such positions stumbled into them almost by accident. Of course, this is an oversimplification, but the point is that it’s relatively rare—based on the individuals we’ve profiled to date—to find people who had their sights set on a career in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) early on and reached their position as part of a long-standing career ambition.

Jon Munoz Booz Allen DEI
Jon Munoz, Chief DEI Officer at Booz Allen

Jon G. Muñoz, Chief DEI Officer for Booz Allen and our subject for this installment, is one of these rare cases—someone driven to a career in DEI from a very early age.

“My career in DEI was an intentional professional journey,” says Muñoz. “I spent years building the skills and competencies for this work through a variety of roles and at different organizations.” Muñoz held multicultural marketing, community relations, and HR roles with Sprint, Nextel Communications, Bank One, and NationsBank. But it was the 2 years he spent at Sprint, now T-Mobile, as a senior manager in the company’s office of inclusion and diversity that he says helped solidify the journey to where he is today. After leaving Sprint, he spent 9 years with Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. as senior director for its global diversity and inclusion efforts before stepping into a VP role there in 2018.

And now, of course, he’s with Booz Allen, where he’s continuing to make an impact on DEI.

A Lifelong Passion

Anyone familiar with Muñoz’s background would probably not be surprised by his push to make a difference in the corporate DEI world. His own personal experiences have helped him appreciate the importance of diversity and belonging.

“My career in DEI is something long rooted in my own life experience,” Muñoz says. “Growing up in El Paso, TX, my parents were community leaders and demonstrated first-hand the value of giving back to the Latino community. I live a life of intersectionality, as a gay and Hispanic man,” he adds. And, although he’s been with his husband for 25 years, they’ve only been married for 5 years since same-sex marriage became legal.

“It’s lived experiences like these that started me on this career path,” he notes. “Embracing my truth gave me the clarity and purpose to focus on creating equitable and inclusive corporate environments where all people can thrive.”

Big, Bold Objectives

DEI efforts and their study are relatively new disciplines in corporate America. Much of the early years of DEI attention has been focused on foundational questions about how to define DEI in the corporate context and debating DEI’s legitimacy as a business goal. This has meant that the stated DEI goals of many organizations have often been vague and somewhat noncommittal, and the means to achieve those goals have often been unclear and ineffectual.

Booz Allen, though, offers a great example of how the objectives of DEI and the means to achieve those objectives have become more robust and substantial over the years.

“In light of our refreshed DEI strategy and action plan, our vision is to make Booz Allen a more equitable place so that everyone can achieve their full potential,” says Muñoz. “That’s a big, bold statement, but we’re working to make it true through several specific actions. It’s not enough to promote DEI to our workforce—we have committed to making systemic changes to policies and practices that influence the employee experience, from recruitment to retirement.”

These efforts include tying DEI efforts to executive compensation, reducing implicit bias from the company’s people processes, evolving Booz Allen’s small business program to include supplier diversity, and creating space and time for employees to share their stories and learn from their colleagues.

A Surprising Outlier

With a focus on defense technology and the government services industry, Booz Allen is firmly situated in the IT consulting industry. These types of tech companies are not known for their diversity, at least not in any positive sense. But Booz Allen stands out sharply against this backdrop as a surprising outlier in the industry and the broader U.S. economy.

“In a study of Booz Allen and its peers, investment advisory firm Jefferies found that it was by far the most diverse, with members of underrepresented groups comprising 73% of its board. Among its peers, that number is just 30%,” wrote Monica Melton in a November 17, 2022, article for Forbes. Furthermore, Muñoz adds that 8 out of Booz Allen’s 9-member leadership team are ethnically or gender-diverse, representing 89% of the team.

“What truly sets us apart is Unstoppable Together—our global, employee-led diversity, equity, and inclusion movement,” says Muñoz. “The program is rooted in storytelling—something we can all do. Through stories and storytelling, we learn about DEI topics and issues by centering and understanding the experiences of our colleagues. The program’s portfolio spans a variety of communications channels, such as our summit, our syndicated podcasts and digital magazine so that we can best engage our employees—as well as clients, potential talent, and partners—wherever they are in their DEI learning journey.”

A Commitment to Diverse Recruiting

Booz Allen’s diversity mainly comes from its aggressive attempts to recruit diverse talent. For Booz Allen, this means actively seeking out diverse talent where that talent is located as opposed to passively waiting for diverse talent to show up and apply.

“In a competitive market, recruiting diverse talent takes intentionality,” Muñoz recognizes. “For Booz Allen, the conclusion was to focus on activating a multi-channel approach to build a pipeline of underrepresented talent. We are doing this via a deliberate candidate outreach, engagement, and recruitment strategy.”

For example, he says, in the last fiscal year, the company has: 

  • Attended 54 diversity job fairs or networking events (virtual and in person)  
  • Hosted over 15 diversity-focused virtual outreach events
  • Launched a neurodiverse hiring program to be grown in 2023 and beyond

In addition, he says, “Through the Booz Allen Foundation, we create inclusive pathways to STEM for underserved communities by providing regional grants to nonprofits with programs addressing barriers to inspiring and enabling STEM careers.”

Unlike many CDOs who take circuitous or serendipitous routes to their positions, Muñoz seems to have been on a one-way track to that end for most of his life. Many organizations in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) industries make bold statements about DEI efforts but fall short in turning those statements into reality; Booz Allen is an example of a company that hasn’t been bound by the DEI performance of its industry peers or others.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.