Having spent over 20 years as advisors to search firms across the globe and the focus today on diversity, equity, and inclusion across all sectors of the business community, we became curious about how our industry is doing in this critically important area of the work we all do — are we ourselves walking the walk.
Much of the work we do is focused on building teams and strategies for executive search firms that address the needs and concerns of the clients they serve. We have focused on building diverse teams for many years, but we really wanted to take a deep dive into the reality.
While the following is not “scientific” but observational, we think you will agree that the landscape is interesting and highlights that we all have to do better ourselves.
The gathering of publicly available information and data was conducted during the second half of 2021. Taking that into consideration it is a safe assumption that certain data points must have evolved from what is shown here currently.
The main site for the aggregation of data was LinkedIn with the available information put forth by the owners of the LinkedIn profiles included in our observational study. Additional sources used were the database at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/companies-house, social media profiles like Facebook, Google Images, and other Google resources, as well as news articles pertaining to the people included in this profiling.
For the gender category, we limited ourselves to ‘female’ and ‘male’. Since the LinkedIn option for posting, one’s preferred pronouns is relatively new, a large number of the users included in this profiling did not have that information publicly available, therefore, the category ‘unknown’ was also used in some cases.
Ethnicity was determined by looking at their LinkedIn profile photo or publicly available images found via Google, stated native language(s), and location of educational institutions attended. For the latter two data points other than LinkedIn we also mined for information on
The categories used were Asian or Asian British; Black, African, Caribbean, or Black British; Arab under Other Ethnicities; White; and Multiple or Mixed ethnic groups. The category ‘unknown’ was also used in certain cases where there was not enough information to go on.
Age was calculated by finding their birth year on https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/companies-house. Where not available, we made use of the university graduation year, i.e., the year they obtained their bachelor’s degree. We subtracted the year of their graduation from the year 2021 and then added the number 21 as the average age of graduation.
For example, a person that graduated from university in 1992 would have their age calculated in the following manner:
2021 – 1992 = 29
29 + 21 = 50
Age ranges were created for the cases where the birth year had to be calculated as in the example shown to account for the margin of error, i.e., people graduating earlier or later than the average age of 21.
To reiterate, this study is not scientific but anecdotal, based on our observations of publicly available information and data. That said, the profile of the industry here in the United Kingdom is not necessarily positive and perhaps even less so considering that the majority of the firms are domiciled in London — a city generally far more diverse than the rest of the UK. We can and must do better!
- Gender diversity must be better balanced.
- The ethnic profile of the UK and specifically London-based leaders needs far better representation.
- We, in the UK executive search industry, must commit to improving our own inclusive hiring practices.
Gender diversity, confined as it is in our profiling to two genders, lags behind the UK’s current overall demographic profile.
The ethnic diversity seems to match UK’s overall ethnic profile; however, taking into account that most of the publicly available data we scoured falls geographically in London and the surrounding area — an ethnically diverse region — the conclusion would be that there is still a long way to go in this regard as well.
Age diversity is an important factor that contributes to the overall company culture and hiring attitudes. Together with gender and ethnicity, these are the aspects that lead to the syndrome of like hires like creating a self-perpetuating cycle.
We were somewhat surprised that overall, the age profiles of executive search consultants and senior leaders’ skews towards the younger (see chart on following page).
ALC Enable Perspective
Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within all organisations have been increasing significantly in recent years with the rise of social awareness and the call for social responsibility and transparency. Below are just some of the many benefits that result from a commitment to DE&I for organisations that take a strategic and serious approach to this important topic and want to do more than simply pay lip service:
- Better overall perception of the firm in terms of employer branding and reputation that leads to attracting and retaining the best and most diverse talent.
- A diverse team means greater diversification of skills, creativity, and experiences thus higher prospects for innovation.
- A true DE&I culture affects the business in positive ways by enabling the firm to offer more quality and innovative services to their clients resulting in greater success overall in terms of profitability and further growth.
“Companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. That this relationship continues to be strong suggests that inclusion of highly diverse individuals – and the myriad ways in which diversity exists beyond gender (e.g., LGBTQ+, age/generation, international experience) — can be a key differentiator among companies.”
— quote from a 2018 McKinsey study
As we have highlighted, this was not an attempt at a comprehensive and elaborate report, only observations of information regarding search firms and search professionals in the UK that we could easily access. However, we believe that there is a significant need for formal research into the diversity initiatives that executive search firms around the world are embracing — both for themselves and their clients.
As a result, we have designed a survey to begin to collect global data on this critically important area of the leadership and talent advisory solutions that the executive search industry provides to organisations of all sizes and in all sectors.
Please click the below link if you would like to provide your views and approaches to addressing DE&I in your search firm and for your clients. We will aggregate the data and share the findings with all participants directly prior to releasing it to the general public.
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