Executive search firms should publish data on the proportion of women on the long and shortlists that they present to employers for board and senior management positions. This is the main recommendation from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the professional body for the recruitment industry in the UK, which publishes new research today about headhunters’ role in helping businesses source the best candidates for top jobs.
In ‘Room at the top: women leaders and the role of executive search’ the REC also calls for search firms to disclose the percentage of positions that are ultimately filled by women, and female placements by salary band on their websites and in their annual reports.
The REC’s chief executive Kevin Green says:
“The UK has an abysmally low ratio of women to men in board rooms and executive teams despite the fact that balanced boards better represent customers and stakeholders, make better decisions and have been proved to deliver better financial results.
“Executive search firms play a vital role helping employers to take a much broader view of what the best candidate for a top job might look like. The best headhunters know it’s their responsibility to challenge employers, probe old assumptions and unconscious biases that can mean some businesses are missing out on top female talent.
“The good news is that the majority of executive search consultants we interviewed felt that chairs and CEOs are open to discussions about the benefits of diversity. Our industry needs to work together with business and government to spread best practice and drive progress towards achieving the goal of 25% female board representation by 2015.”
Senior headhunters interviewed by the REC spoke candidly about their experience helping companies source talent, and what they do to support female candidates. Some of the ways in which interviewees say they help ensure qualified women aren’t overlooked include:
- Engaging and encouraging potential female candidates before they are actively looking and helping them prepare for taking that step later in their careers
- Helping women think through flexible working arrangements and facilitating discussions between client and female candidates
- Providing assurances to hirers when they hesitate over an appointment because a female candidate’s CV shows a less traditional career progression
The report is published to coincide with the publication by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) of a review of the Voluntary Code for Executive Search.