When Liz and I set out to create an executive search and talent business with a difference, part of that difference was about promoting diversity, in its broadest sense.
Over the last 3 years, we’ve established a track record we’re fiercely proud of; over half our placed candidates are female and over a third are from under-represented groups. Almost unheard of for appointments at the most senior level. How have we done this? By developing relationships with incredible people like Cephas Williams and organisations like MEFA. By deepening our own connections within our industry and adjacent industries. And then starting our lists with diverse candidates, not throwing a couple in for good measure.
We were determined to do this because we saw from our own personal experience as former leaders, the huge benefits that diversity brings to better thinking, better culture, better outcomes. But we were also committed to challenge the grossly unfair discrimination good people faced because of their skin colour, gender, sexuality and a host of other labels when applying for senior roles. We have an ambition to help change the face of the media and communications world, both metaphorically and literally.
Our privileged access to CEO’s of organisations allowed us to hold a mirror up and ask the difficult questions. Happily, most businesses are now responding in a way that we could only have dreamt of a couple of years ago because the climate is changing, quickly, for the better.
But for all the businesses that see the advantages, there are plenty of others that are making gestures to simply ‘improve appearances’. This doesn’t fix the fundamental problem because diversity isn’t about tokenism, quotas or ratios. When it comes to socio-economic or sexual orientation for example, diversity can’t even be seen, so do they become less important to those who are fixated by appearances? Diversity needs to live and breath in organisations across every department and every level. It’s about creating an environment where differences aren’t tolerated or accepted but embraced and celebrated. Where belonging and inclusivity are a given, not a target.
Now, don’t get me wrong, a single diverse hire is better than nothing but consider this; If you feel like you need to make a diverse hire into your organisation because your ‘ratios don’t look great’, ask yourself why you don’t have a brilliant pipeline of diverse talent ready to step up into more senior opportunities. Maybe it’s time to revisit your employer value proposition or the company’s authenticity around equality, showcase your internal belonging credentials and diverse career development examples in your business, promote client work that demonstrates your values and principles – these are the things that give you credibility when attracting diverse candidates.
The good news is, if you can get this right, you’ll effortlessly attract the best talent from all ages, races and sexes, and they will all celebrate being part of your business. And I’d like to bet you’ll have an operation that delivers better thinking, better culture and better outcomes.