Daniel Ekberg from Creative Search – Agilium Worldwide’s member in Sweden – discusses the meaning of “diversity” within the context of executive search
Without doubt, diversity is a huge topic these days. However, it has tended to become a gender issue where the focus is on low participation levels of women on Boards of Directors of publicly listed companies. This is certainly an issue. We simply cannot continue to exclude 50% of the population when appointing Board members, but is this really what diversity is about?
Not only are women academically and professionally on a par with men (in fact education-wise they are, in many countries, on a much higher level), they also think differently. This is significant if 50% of our end customers are women. The reason for promoting diversity is to be able to meet as many different demands as possible.
In the past, companies were local, national, then international, multinational and today they are global. As global companies, we are doing business 24/7/365 all around the world. Our customers demonstrate different behaviors and different ways of thinking, based partially on their cultural environment. Furthermore, about 50% of our end customers are most likely to be women, further percentages are LGBT, strictly religious people, and physically or mentally handicapped people. The lion’s share of all people on earth lives in developing countries – the vast majority are younger than 30. This is diversity in its true form.
If we agree that this is the reality facing many global companies, it would be rather naive to think that the management or Board of Directors of such companies can consist 100% of middle-aged, male Caucasians. Fact is, that if we want to be able to understand and meet the needs of as many customers as possible, we also need to have a diversified management. It’s not only a gender issue, but that’s possibly a good starting point.
There are numerous studies showing that companies with diversity in their management teams and on their Boards are more successful than companies without. In my opinion, this is a result of doing more efficient business intelligence.
It’s not enough to simply recognize there is a need for diversity, we also need to prepare for it. If there aren’t enough female Board members, we cannot appoint someone to this position just because this person is a woman. To be a Board member you need substantial experience in line management. If we are not willing to put women in line management positions from the bottom up, we will never have competent female Board members. The same goes for people with different backgrounds and cultures. If a global company wants Board members who represent developing countries, they have to give young people from Africa, South America or Asia the chance to be line managers long before they need to be ready to serve on a Board. For sure, not all hiring needs to be from internal sourcing, but there is a clear signal effect in every organization determined by the actions they choose to take. In a truly global company this will be an endemic part of corporate culture. As headhunters we need to work accordingly.
At Creative Search we work constantly with a “diversity aspect”. It’s important for us to always give our clients as many choices as possible. Diversity is a normal part of our process. Is it also a normal part of yours? If not, you ought to reconsider.
Daniel Ekberg, Managing Partner of Creative Search
Founded in 1984, Agilium Worldwide LLC (https://www.agiliumworldwide.com/) is an international executive search group of independent, owner-managed retained executive search firms, with members who are active in virtually every market. Agilium Worldwide ranks among the world’s top 25 executive search organizations.
Agilium Worldwide’s member firms offer personalized, specialized, client-oriented services. By eliminating the formally structured, pre-programmed approach they can remain proactive and secure prompt, skilled and expert service to their clients, to help them find the “Perfect Fit” – the right person for the right position, at the right time, at the right location.
Agilium Worldwide member firms are trusted advisors to companies from the Fortune 500, as well as to upcoming and start-up companies around the globe. Clients get the best of both worlds: an entrepreneurial approach with global reach and local perspective.