2019 brings to a close a decade in which workplace equality has gained increasing prominence on the global agenda.
Revelations from the #MeToo movement, gender pay gap disclosure policies and repeated reports of entrenched diversity shortcomings at the top levels of business have highlighted the continued work to be done.
However, analysts are optimistic that 2020 could usher in a new era for employment equality as companies double down on their drive to hire specially-appointed diversity and inclusion (D&I) professionals.
Glassdoor, in its "2020 Job Trends" report, predicts that recruitment of D&I specialists will become a major priority for a broad swathe of employers in the coming year as they seek to modernize their corporate culture and attract new employees.
"In 2020 and beyond, as companies continue to build action-oriented diversity and inclusion teams, we expect to see a wave of hiring for leaders and managers that will help carry forward the mission of building a more diverse and inclusive workforce," Glassdoor's chief economist, Andrew Chamberlain, wrote.
Michelle Armer, chief people officer at job site CareerBuilder agrees, putting increased D&I initiatives as one of her top employment picks for the new year.
Diversity and inclusion positions have been rising in recent years as employers, especially large corporations, have come to acknowledge their value.
Demand for the role — which incorporates recruitment, HR and leadership duties — surged 106% in the U.K. in 2019, according to Glassdoor data. Germany saw an uptick of 79%, while job postings rose 53% and 30% in France and the U.S., respectively.
Global jobs site Indeed, by comparison, saw D&I positions grew 23% in the year to November 2019.
Employees, meanwhile, are expressing increasing interest in the nascent professional as new opportunities to advance office culture open up.
Glassdoor found employee D&I job searches rose 19% in 2019.
Besides driving important diversity discourse, roles in the D&I profession can also prove a lucrative career choice, analysts say.
Salary aggregator, PayScale crunched the salaries of more than 1,000 U.S. D&I professionals for CNBC Make It and found median pay hovered between $84,000 and $126,000 across three major roles. Each of the roles recorded a net increase in pay over the past six years.
Glassdoor, meanwhile, noted comparable average salaries across three similar professions:
While the specific requirements of D&I positions vary from organization to organization, at its very core, the role is responsible for "cultivating work environments that encourage and support diversity and inclusion," Glassdoor's career expert Jo Cresswell told CNBC Make It.
As such, duties span human resources and communications and job candidates typically require a degree in either human resources or social sciences, plus knowledge of local laws relating to D&I and a range of soft skills.
"They need to have the right mixture of head and heart, strategy and empathy, leadership and empowerment … as well as a genuine passion for social causes and inclusion," said Cresswell.
As of 2019, some two-thirds of D&I roles have been at companies with 1,000+ employees.
One reason for that is that larger employers have faced "greater levels of public and regulatory scrutiny than many employers," Chamberlain noted.
However, with 64% of employers expected to step up their investment in D&I in the coming months, Chamberlain said he expects the momentum to filter down to smaller employers as they vie for top talent.
"As many companies have learned over the last decade, words without action typically don't lead to change," Chamberlain wrote.
"We expect the tide to turn in 2020, with more companies putting their money where their mouths are by adding key D&I-focused employees in order to drive lasting change in their workplaces."
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