The Financial Services sector has long been criticised for many things, but in particular for the lack of gender diversity at all levels of an organisation and especially at Executive and Board level. Many an article has been written and much research has been produced around the moral and commercial basis for gender diversity.
“Executive search firms should draw up a Voluntary Code of Conduct addressing gender diversity and best practice which covers the relevant search criteria and processes relating to FTSE 350 board level appointments”. Lord Davies of Abersoch
Most recent analysis and discussion on gender diversity has shown that less than 5% of the most senior executives at investment banks are women and just 4.2% of those sitting on executive committees are women (*source efinancial news).
In house research at Sheffield Haworth, likewise, reveals executive search consultants believe women have better opportunities than that of 5 years ago, but that the improvement is not significant.
The survey revealed that many consultants believe the following factors play a more significant role in addressing gender imbalance than the actions of an executive search firm or the executive search industry:
- the client - their top down commitment to gender diversity
- the culture of the country in question - government support and legislative tools
- the culture of the employing firm - supporting HR related policies
- the specific sector within Financial Services – e.g. equity
- derivative trading versus equity COO
- the nature of the individual hiring manager – their beliefs and personality
Statements from the in house survey show that many clients may take as ‘given’ a search firm’s obligation to support their diversity initiatives but it is important that hiring managers become accustomed to, and use in their daily vocabulary, their employer’s commitment to gender diversity.
“At Bank of America Merrill Lynch we recognise that a strong focus on diversity and inclusion can set you apart from the competition. That's why we invited the search firms we use locally to hear from us on our commitment to diversity and inclusion and our expectations from them in terms of providing us with a diverse slate of candidates, in particular women."
Simona Maellare and Mike Ward, Co Chairs, Regional Diversity and Inclusion Council, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
What is the ‘diversity experience’ of Executive search professionals when being briefed to search by a client?
- 40% of clients never mention their desire/requirement for a diverse candidate pool.
- 14% of executive search consultants had been asked why female candidates had not been presented on a short list.
- 21% of executive search consultants had been asked not to present female candidates.
- 15% of executive search consultants had been asked to present female only candidates.