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Kwasi Mitchell’s Bold Leap to Leading Purpose and DEI Strategy at Deloitte

The Chief Purpose and DEI Officer shares his lifelong fight for equity and addressing disparities. 

Kwasi Mitchell became Deloitte’s first Chief Purpose Officer in 2020, with leadership of the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy added to his portfolio in 2023. Now, as Deloitte’s Chief Purpose & DEI Officer, Mitchell leads Deloitte’s efforts on sustainability and climate change, equity including DEI and supplier diversity, trust including responsible business practices and trustworthy and ethical technology, and social impact for Deloitte’s more than 170,000 US employees.

But he initially attempted to turn down the opportunity.

“My reservations weren’t that I didn’t want to help our people, because clearly that’s the thing that won me over—and by ‘our people,’ I mean all of our people. My hope was that I’d have a more traditional career path because generally, in our organization, you have practice leadership roles for a while, and then you elevate into roles of this nature,” Mitchell says.

“I just felt that taking a role of that nature right out of the gate would shift the course of my career and that I would end up in a situation where I wasn’t viewed as a practice leader but as a person who was a talent and DEI leader.”

And while his decision to take the position did shape the course of his career, Mitchell says that serving as chief purpose and DEI officer has elevated and accelerated it. His role also allowed him to establish a reputation that is unique among leaders at Deloitte.

“On a daily basis, I have the opportunity to have an impact on thousands of people’s lives. I wouldn’t trade that for anything—even the hard days, and there are a lot of hard days,” Mitchell says. “But, from the standpoint of being able to direct our resources and focus areas to drive change that can impact and improve people’s lives, it’s hard to turn that down regardless of what other things may have played out in my career.”

Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Mitchell was one of nine children. He was raised by his mother, Rosemary Mitchell, and paternal grandparents and grew up during the crack cocaine epidemic during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In his youth, he noticed the mass incarceration of Black Americans.

“Much of my upbringing was shaped by insecurity, with respect to the safety situation of the city in which I lived; poverty, given the broad demands on my mother and grandparents to care for us; and a lot of love from my mother, grandparents, brothers and sisters,” Mitchell says. “It was a humble upbringing overall and a challenging period for Black Americans, but nonetheless, a childhood that I wouldn’t trade for anything, given everything I learned from my grandparents and mother.”

Mitchell says his mother worked diligently to secure a scholarship for him to attend private middle school and high school. This experience led Mitchell to understand the differences between his modest upbringing and that of his classmates from wealthier families.

“The key thing my mother always highlighted was that I was smart enough to know that we did not have the same means as others and also smart enough to not accept that,” he says. “I spent a considerable amount of time being very focused on education. My grandmother was a huge proponent of education as a pathway to a better life.”

Despite excelling in chemistry in high school, Mitchell initially wanted to study history or philosophy at Kalamazoo College. He took a philosophy class and did well, but his academic advisor pointed out that he received an A+ in Chemistry I. The advisor urged him to take Chemistry II, and after receiving an A, Mitchell decided to pursue a chemistry degree.

Mitchell says he never considered looking for employment after graduation. Instead, he chose to continue his studies and earn a doctorate degree—because he thought it would lead him to a career that would enable him to care for his mother and siblings. Mitchell took three years and nine months to earn his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Northwestern University.

His first post-college career was with ExxonMobil as a researcher — and the company supported his desire to go back to school for an MBA.

Mitchell had witnessed how minority and women researchers in higher education had fewer resources than their white and male counterparts, whether it was about research space or grant dollars. But at ExxonMobil, he could feel confident that he would be rewarded based on his hard work.

“ExxonMobil was the total opposite of what I had previously experienced— and what made me decide that I did not want to work in higher education at that time,” Mitchell says. “ExxonMobil is a very competitive, profit-driven organization where each and every year you prove your worth. That, for me, was somewhat of a liberating environment to be in, because I don’t think anybody cared if I was Black, white, blue or green. It was very much like, ‘if you produce, you will be recognized and promoted.’”

A year and a half into working for the company, Mitchell pursued his MBA from Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business.

“After I completed my MBA, they moved me to a new facility within the D.C. area in a new role that was effectively going to be the start of me going into the management development program at ExxonMobil. I departed shortly after that time,” Mitchell explains. “The program requires you to move to a variety of places around the world and have a new job every 18 months or so. I just did not want to do that, especially being newly married.”

While looking for a new job, a friend from Mitchell’s high school who worked for Deloitte asked if Mitchell wanted to share his résumé with the professional services organization.

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Deloitte was indeed interested in Mitchell’s résumé and offered him a position in its energy practice, which allowed him to stay in the D.C. area.

“Then, it was off to the races. I joined the organization and spent about two years on the road week-in and week-out. After that, I had an opportunity to start working with our then-federal practice. I really enjoyed doing mission work in helping the government by providing consultative services. I spent most of my time working with other federal law enforcement agencies and private sector security,” Mitchell says. “I think I was drawn to those areas due to my upbringing. I was working with agencies using data and analytics to be more effective in executing their missions of making the American public safer.”

Shortly after becoming a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP, Mitchell was named to lead DEI efforts within Deloitte’s Consulting practice.

People at Deloitte noticed his work, and a colleague encouraged him to put his name up for a position leading diversity and inclusion in the Deloitte Consulting federal practice. Mitchell interviewed, but he wasn’t interested—at first.

“A week later, I got a call from the lead of the practice. He said, ‘If you take this role, I guarantee that the work you do will inspire more Black professionals to pursue advancement and give you an influential platform to help create more equitable opportunities for all professionals at the leadership level.’ I said, ‘I’m in.’”

Then, in 2020, he got the call to become Deloitte’s first chief purpose officer. He and his team built the organization’s dedicated Purpose Office, which has since integrated formally with the organization’s DEI team to become the Purpose and DEI Office. As its leader, Mitchell is at the forefront of Deloitte’s efforts to achieve its purpose ambitions across topics including sustainability, equity, trust, and social impact.

Under his leadership, Deloitte announced in 2022 a 10-year, $1.5 billion social impact investment focused on supporting individuals and communities facing barriers to equity in areas including education and workforce development, financial inclusion, and health equity. Shortly after, Deloitte Global made a similar investment, committing $3 billion over the next decade to tackle these issues around the world.

Recently, Mitchell revisited his grandmother’s obituary, which was featured in his hometown paper the Kalamazoo Gazette. In reading it, he realized she spent much of her life advocating for the same issues he does in his career today.

Despite growing up under the strains of segregation, Leona Mitchell spent her life helping North Kalamazoo’s Black community access jobs, credit, and fair housing, even serving on the board of the Northside Community Credit Union.

“I’m working to make progress on breaking down the same kind of systemic barriers that my grandmother was trying to address 60 years ago,” Mitchell says. His hope is that in the future, there won’t be a need to fight these same battles for equity and inclusion. “I do not want my successor to have to focus on those same societal issues that I devote my energies to, because our country will have built on the progress that people like my grandmother fought so hard for to achieve a more equitable society.

Megan Sayles is a Report For America corps member.


About Deloitte

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see to learn more about our global network of member firms.

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