Perhaps one positive thing to come out of this year is that more companies are publicly committing to address racial inequality in their organizations.
They’ve got a long way to go.
That’s especially evident at the top leadership levels, where 85% of executives are white, Mercer found in a 2020 survey of 1,150 companies. And women of color can expect an even steeper climb — only 13% of the companies surveyed said they offer career programs to elevate that group.
Make the effort: What your organization should do
We reached out to staffing and recruiting experts from our Lists to learn the additional moves companies can make to find and hire more diverse talent for their upper ranks.
Divina Gamble, senior client partner with Korn Ferry and the managing partner of its D.C. office, said that placing people of color into leadership positions is just one of many necessary actions to create a true culture of equality in the workplace. “Being passionate about local, national and global issues, without understanding the intersectionality of racial discrimination and systems of power, limits the ability to create true transformational change and sustainable impact,” she said.
Gamble shared the steps her organization recommends taking in any search process:
Do you think more companies will take action on racial justice going forward? Leaders will be tasked with making reconciliations for the past and taking bold and strategic positions to create and fight for equity and justice. Consumers and communities are demanding this.
How big a piece of that is hiring or promoting more diverse leaders?
Hiring leaders is among the most important decisions that any organization makes. As you build on rich legacies and position an organization for even more growth and impact, purpose-driven and dynamic leaders are needed. These leaders must bring a racial justice and equity lens and ensure tools are in place so that all decisions impacting the organization’s constituents are made through this critical screen.
What steps should be taken after a candidate is hired? We offer unconscious bias training to key decision-makers to ensure the integrity of the search process and alignment with the values of the organization. We believe deeply in working with clients to ensure a robust onboarding plan. Despite the hiring of leaders of color, data highlighted by the Building Movement Project points to “a range of systemic biases and barriers — not individual deficits — that limit opportunity, access and advancement for people of color who aspire to executive leadership roles.” Our onboarding plans can address these barriers and promote a smooth transition and the foundation for a successful tenure.
From Deborah Ben-Canaan at Major, Lindsey & Africa
Name two best practices companies can start incorporating this year to diversify their leadership teams: Companies can insist on their executive search partners providing a diverse slate of qualified legal talent. Don’t settle for “we couldn’t find anyone” or ”it is too hard.” There is terrific talent out there. Internally, look for talent. It is there. Train, develop and mentor the talent that is within your organization.
What else can companies tap into that they may not have thought of? You don’t necessarily have to go outside to have courageous conversations within your organization. Start having those conversations internally. Listen to the experiences of your diverse employees and develop programs for everyone to participate in. There are several excellent organizations that can facilitate these conversations. I have learned so much from the training that MLA has done around diversity. I try to have courageous conversations within my organization.
From Debbie Tang at Bridge Partners
What are some of the best practices companies can start incorporating this year to diversify their leadership teams: Hiring a minority-owned executive search firm that specializes in an inclusive process is one way to increase diversity. But you also need to take a hard look at hiring/succession criteria for roles in order to find ways to expand the potential pool. By separating the must-have experiences/skills from the “like to have,” you may find there are more candidates who have the requisite must-have skills, but who may not be in the exact mold you have traditionally selected. Think additively about hiring and wean yourself away from “fit.” Focusing on “fit” can steer hiring managers toward who they like and are similar to. Instead think about: Does this candidate bring experience to the table that is different from who is already here or that we’re missing or that we need?
Our experts suggested other resources to help you reach more diverse candidates. First, look internally. Your own organization can form employee resource groups to help each other with mentoring, advancing careers and support. These groups can also share what needs and ideas they may have with top management.