It goes without saying that all organisations will have some form of equality and diversity policy and the majority of executive search firms are no different. Indeed, with the responsibility that is given to search firms in acting as an agent for organisations in identifying and assessing individuals, it is vital that a fair and robust process is put in place. During its establishment however, we were keen to avoid a “tokenism” approach. SearchHigher has worked with the Centre for Diversity Policy Research & Practice at Oxford Brookes University and in particular engaged with its Director, Professor Simonetta Manfredi in developing a strategy to assist in better gender and BME representation in traditionally challenging areas such as leadership posts and STEM subject areas
Rather than simply try to ensure we have someone on the shortlist that will help with diversity figures, we have taken a view that it is an ethical responsibility to put forth effort in this area and it is proven to be of significant benefit to an organisation.
Research published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission outlines a robust business case for promoting diversity in senior leadership teams. Increased diversity improves institutional performance and responsiveness within the market, widens the talent pool for recruitment, and achieves better corporate governance. Furthermore, the broader economic argument for increased gender diversity is clear. There is a strong positive correlation between the stock market growth of a company and the proportion of women in senior management teams. On a European level, such companies were found to outperform their rivals with a 42 percent higher return in sales, 66 percent higher return on invested capital and 53 percent higher return on equity.
In a study investigating women’s progression to senior university leadership positions, conducted by Professor Liz Doherty and Professor Simonetta Manfredi, many more women than men reported an opportunistic approach to their career development. In contrast, nearly twice as many men than women reported that they take a planned approach to their careers. This is where it is essential that executive search services take their responsibility seriously and where SearchHigher has sought to provide a real difference to the sector. We seek to provide a search service that synchronises the spontaneity favoured by women; by approaching potential female candidates directly we are able to have detailed discussions about an open position and pitch the opportunity according to their individual skills and competencies.
SearchHigher are supporters of the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms and adhere fully to the Equality Act 2010. When taking a brief, we focus on the competencies and skills required for high performance in the role. This focus on competencies continues into our search, and widens the talent pool beyond simply candidates who have already held comparable positions. Not only does this contribute positively towards workforce development, but it prevents the exclusion of candidates who may have non-traditional backgrounds or belong to groups which have often been underrepresented in senior management.
HEFCE returns data reports the current composition of senior management teams in HEFCE-funded institutions as 62% male and 38% female. We hope that we can make a real difference in assisting institutions as they seek to improve and diversify representation through our proactive approach in networking, career guidance and throughout the research, identification and shortlisting phases of the recruitment process.