This is a fascinating inquiry. You ask "whether it would corrode team performance, to bring factors other than merit, to performance evaluation". Why would anyone be promoted into any position and especially one of management if they didn't merit that position based on their knowledge and skills?
I have definitely seen this addressed in an organization equivalent to yours. In fact, it was a purposeful attempt to always be looking out to identify the next round of leaders. Initially candidates were identified for the attitudes, work-ethic and learned skills that they were currently demonstrating. Often, if not quite ready for the promotion into entry level management, they were assigned a mentor to work with them on identified skills ... always with the expectation that they were being groomed for their next position.
Although you didn't say this, it appears that someone being of a minority group is a reason that they haven't been considered.
I would suggest that to the extent the senior staff becomes blind to difference in areas of nationality, color or any other differentiating trait, you will be likely and find it quite easy to become the more diverse management organization that your CIO desires to create.
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