Board Diversity – A Headhunters Perspective

Research shows organisations strong on diversity perform better, are more innovative and will attract and retain better talent. These benefits, however, don’t just come from writing a diversity policy, they require organisations to embed diversity in their company.

While it is a journey, it starts from the most senior leadership ranks, specifically their board and in their C Suite. Diversity from the top establishes the agenda for greater knowledge and connectivity with all stakeholders.

There is no one size fits all approach to developing a culturally/gender/age/ably diverse company but a commitment from the top levels is the best place to start.

It’s a well-known fact that a shortlist of candidates with someone known to the Chair or Board are more likely to be hired. Secondly, the search brief for a NED often demands a particular set of skills and experience. With the availability of only a small pool of women with C-Suite or commercial experience, and given the historical dominance of white males on boards and C suite positions, it restricts the search to a pool of talent already low in both gender and cultural diversity. 

It also explains the very high levels of connectivity between corporate Australia.

Donald Heyller from Open Director says “inviting10 directors to lunch could cover 62% of ASX top 200 companies when counting the boards they are on and their joint directors who sit on other company boards”.

It comes as no surprise that the annual CEW research on gender diversity within the top ASX 200 listed corporations CEW ASX200 SENIOR EXECUTIVE CENSUS 2020 that the number of women on boards is not moving in the right direction.

When it comes to cultural diversity, 42% of our population in Australia is non-Anglo Saxon, yet 75.9 per cent hold C Suite roles.

If Board and their organisations are really committed to creating a culture of diversity they need to allow head hunters to do what they do best – coming up with lateral ideas for candidates based on their in-depth research, understanding of roles and trends, their ability to identify talent and their broad exposure to a diverse talent pool.

While experience and track record are important considerations, we also need to encourage a brief that looks to other qualities such as attributes, complementary skills, aptitude, and motivation regardless of their gender, ethnicity or age. And why not look at recruiting a little differently? If nothing else, COVID-19 has taught us that we can run meetings remotely. Let’s also start accessing the great Australian talent and others working offshore?

Imagine, the impact it would have on expanding the pool of talent available for Board and C-Suite role.