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Insights on C-suite Board Gender Diversity

A presentation to AESC Executive Research Forum delegates, London, Thursday March 12

BoardEx was proud to sponsor The Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) Executive Research Forum 2020, in London on Thursday, March 12. The forum was an interesting mix of theoretical presentations and practical exercises, the latter being conducted by Rachel Roche, Founder & President of Smart Search.

Dominick Sutton, Chief Data Officer of BoardEx was invited to present a preview of the findings from the BoardEx Global Gender Diversity Report at the forum. Some of the key report findings covered at the event were:

  • Real progress is being made across the world to increase overall board gender diversity.
  • This progress is uneven, however, with some countries continuing to lag (even though they, too, have made progress from previous levels).
  • Within boards, however, there is apparently less progress, with some countries underperforming when it comes to the number of female Executive Directors appointed.
  • This underperformance is also apparent when the leadership teams are considered.
  • This leadership team underperformance matters, as it constitutes the future source of executive directors.
  • The uneven performance is also apparent when sectors are considered, with some sectors (such as retail) favoring more women on their boards compared to others (e.g. diversified industrials).

The Executive Director Roles for Women
The audience was curious about the kinds of roles women in Executive Directors perform – analysis for another day. What we will say is that to begin with the pool of females in executive roles within leadership teams, for example, C-suite and Executive Committees is small. This can lead to fewer suitable female candidates to begin with for Executive Director roles. The supply for Non-Executive Directors is also constrained and this may to lead women sitting on more boards that can lead to overboarding.

Education and the first employment experience can explain lack of diversity in leadership roles. A degree from certain colleges or universities automatically fast tracks women for these roles, but not many women are attending these institutions. This can often be the start of the problem.

Developing Professional Skills Among Future Leaders of Executive Search
The forum’s practical exercises were focussed on developing professional skills among the potentially future leaders of the search community.  Interestingly, two of the topics discussed were:

  1. How do you facilitate a warm introduction?
  2. How do you quickly establish rapport with a potential candidate?

Warm Introduction: Executive Search firms can map their network of business relationships to enable them to make a quick analysis of their potential paths to a prospective candidate. How does this help Researchers? This relationship mapping provides a deep analysis of your options for a warm introduction by listing all second-degree connections in order of relationship strength. It also considers any in-house connections that may be available for you to use. By using their network in this way, Executive Search firms and their Researchers can access an actionable audience with warm introductions at the first- or second-degree level.

Establish Rapport: By mapping relationships from candidate to organization to the market and detailed profiles of potential candidates, Executive Search firms can identify talking points through overlapping interests, conversation points, education and other similarities to build rapport with candidates. This relationship intelligence can help to break the ice in the first few moments of a call. This knowledge of the potential candidate’s background and interests can help talent Researchers, Associates and Partners to develop and strengthen relationships with candidates.

Despite the increased concerns about COVID-19 there was a solid turnout for the event. The AESC’s flagship Global Conference has now been postponed until November and will now take place in London. This will also be sponsored by BoardEx.