The Search for Diversity

Diversity on the Agenda

Large, multi-national organisations have a troubled relationship with matters around equality and diversity, especially at the C-Suite level.

These organisations are now working to develop a culture of fairness, inclusion and respect within their workplaces. This includes promoting equality and diversity and combating discrimination. They are increasingly expecting their supply chain partners to work with them to achieve this too.

But is this movement being made out of genuine belief in the benefits, the threat of sanction from national governments or a pragmatic need to address talent shortages, and what does it mean for the search sector?

Legislative Pressures

Nearly every major company has taken on efforts to attract, retain, and advance women and diverse employees. Along with these efforts, a huge and growing array of award granters, raters, and scorecard vendors has emerged to help companies benchmark, track progress, and measure success.

The UK government wrote to the biggest UK-listed companies in early 2017, urging them to improve diversity and echoing a call to publish a breakdown of their workforce by race and pay band while President Obama signed an executive order in 2011 to promote equal employment opportunity, diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce. Also in 2011, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission amended its corporate governance disclosure rules to require companies to report if they consider diversity when searching for a new board member and if they have a policy that addresses the consideration of diversity when searching for candidates.

So businesses across the globe have long understood the importance of diversity amongst their leadership positions.

Diversity and Search

In 2015, the UK government put together a voluntary Policy Paper, the “‘Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms’ (July 2015)”, from which a list of executive search firms signed up to the voluntary code of conduct to address gender diversity on corporate boards. This has seen Executive Search firms supporting chairs and nominations committees as they take steps to increase the proportion of women on their boards, in both executive and non-executive roles.

Search firms globally can help their clients developing medium-term succession plans that identify the balance of experience and skills that they will need to recruit, look at the overall board composition and in the context of the board’s agreed aspirational goals look at diversity and ensure that significant weight is given to relevant skills and intrinsic personal qualities and not just proven career experience, in order to extend the pool of candidates. They will also ensure that a proportion of shortlisted candidates are diverse and, if not, explicitly justify why they are convinced that there are no other qualified options.