Like all other things in business and science, all new strategies and experiments need a catalyst to beget action.
Diversity and Inclusion are certainly not new to the corporate dictionary and definitely not limited to Human Resources. Often treated as a single initiative, D&I as quoted by Change Expert, Gillian Harford, “is not a standalone initiative” and begins at the top!
Only when D&I is accepted and owned at the C-suite level, can it thrive in an organization.
What can leaders do as enablers?
In exclusive interviews with Hunter Executive Search, both 30% Club Country Executive and HR expert, Gillian Harford as well as the Executive Coach and Expert, Olivia Galvin talked about the significance of self-awareness and empathy in leaders to drive change.
So, what can you do as a leader to enable better outcomes?
- Rewrite job descriptions to describe the competency you need rather than a tick list of bullet points of perfection
- Check the language for phrases that are more / less favourable to different groups
- Yes, focus on who has applied, but also focus on who hasn’t and why
- Encourage talented individuals to put themselves forward
- Run a structured process that enables talent to shine – but don’t make the process so onerous it discourages great applicants
“As leaders, we can’t build confidence in our team members, that has to come from within themselves. However, we can create better systems, situations, and circumstances, to allow that confidence to develop and shine, and for our team members to ultimately progress”.
Role of Executive Search in driving greater gender balance, particularly at the top
As advisors, executive search firms are critical to providing a gender-balanced, diversified pool of talent to the business. It is a serious job where they can play a crucial role in driving diversity. Advising clients to choose a diverse shortlist goes a long way in bringing about change at the c-suite level.
Harford explains however that executive search firms can’t do this alone. She strongly believes that both the respective organisation and the executive search firm need to come together equally to commit to a balanced slate.
“It can be very easy for an organisation to make the search firm fully accountable for a balanced outcome… I think equally, there can be a danger where the search firm justify poor performance on ‘we tried but they don’t exist’. To have a great outcome there needs to be ownership within the organisation from the highest level, a commitment and thorough process on the part of the search firm, and an appreciation that complex searches may take more time in a challenged skills pool” explains Harford. “But situations where there are no diverse options are becoming extremely rare”
Illusion of Scarcity
Don’t let this stop you from leading by example
It is commonly cited that the biggest barrier to women on boards is the scarcity of women in the corporate world. However, according to a report from the Credit Suisse Research Institute, one-fifth of supervisory board positions are now held by women. The report further shows that the percentage of women on boards worldwide now stands at 20.6 per cent, up from 15.3 per cent since 2015. In Ireland, the percentage of women on boards in listed organisations stood at 12% in 2015; by 2021 the ISEQ 20 tipped beyond 30% thanks to comprehensive plans and targets by boards, supported by groups like the 30% Club and the government backed initiative ‘Balance for Better Business’. But there is still more to be done at Board and C-suite levels.
This begs the question that if in more mature economies and now in emerging markets, is there any barrier that can’t be addressed. Yes, for some technical functions there is still a smaller pipeline and this is precisely why the chair must emphasise on having a balance and a search firm that is ready to “play devil’s advocate if needed, is always honest, goes the extra mile.” (Hunter Executive Search)
The only thing stopping you, is YOU
Many areas of research have shown that women are less likely to apply for a role unless they are confident that they can meet all the role requirements, whereas men are more likely to take the chance if they meet 40% of the requirements. Women are less likely than men to be searching for new opportunities, often balancing progression with other life cycle priorities; and women are less likely to prompt other female colleagues on new opportunities.
In this final part of the D&I series, Harford concludes “it’s a stereotype with research behind it but women are far more likely to keep their head down and do a great job and hope to be recognised; instead of looking up, talking about their achievements, and searching for the next opportunity. We do highlight it, with a certain amount of humour, as the princess syndrome – the idea that we do amazing things and wait for someone to put the tiara on our heads – whereas I like to talk about looking up and finding our own tiara’s!! “
“If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll be waiting for the rest of your life.”
No, don’t let this be another reminder
Organisations that have made efforts to make their businesses more diverse and inclusive have seen incredible changes in productivity and innovation. They attract and retain talent, achieve greater profits, make better decisions faster, earn a serious advantage over their competitors, achieve better business results, and deliver better shareholder returns.
Food for thought:
If you’re not acting now, your competitor already is, and where will that leave you in the war for the next generation of talent?
About the 30% Club. The 30% Club is a global campaign supported by Chairs/CEO’s of some of the world’s largest organisations, driving for greater gender balance at senior decision-making levels. Starting in Ireland in 2015, the Irish Chapter hosts more than 270 members representing all sectors of the Irish economy. The 30% Club focuses on several initiatives to support organisations in their Diversity ambition, including a best practice guide on Executive and Board Resourcing, which is supported by Ireland’s leading search firms. Hunter Executive Search is the newest signatory to the code. Know more.