Hiring the best executive ‘athlete’ benefits women (and maybe men)
With over 20 years as managing partner of executive search firms in Canada and the United States, I've read and published many reports on women in the executive ranks and at the board level. I'm in the executive search business, and every day, my firm is specifically self-mandated to dig for female candidates to include on every shortlist of every assignment we conduct. In Canada, we report weekly on our success in this endeavour.
While the statistics on women in the executive ranks are better than they were when I came into the business 30 years ago, it's not better enough. Why? Is it really sexism or prejudice, like so many believe?
At business school and law school in the late 1970s and early '80s, about half of the students in my class were women. As a husband and father to three children (two of whom are daughters), I have lived with and raised women with degrees in neurobiology, law and medicine and with general degrees from some of the finest Ivy League schools. My Toronto office has more female partners than male. I recognize the talent and perspective that women bring to our world and to our businesses and so do my clients and friends. So why this lack of progress? And what can be done about it?
What I'm seeing is actually pretty simple. It's rarely prejudice – in fact, there's a battle for female talent at the board and senior executive level. Our experience shows that when one woman is on the shortlist (there are typically at least three finalists for a coveted position), she has a better than 50-per-cent chance of being offered the job.