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In the Nation's Interest

Advancing Women in Corporate Leadership Spotlight: Egon Zehnder

by CED October 01, 2018

1. What do you see as a key benefit of participating in CED’s Advancing Women in Corporate Leadership Initiative?

We at Egon Zehnder believe that the world needs more great leaders. We also believe that diverse leadership teams are better and more effective than homogenous teams. For this reason, we feel strongly that organizations must incorporate diversity and inclusion when finding and developing executive talent.

The slow pace of change in increasing the number of women in the Board Room and C-Suite comes despite a major effort by many companies to support the executive development of women. Despite this, some women report that they find themselves blocked from advancement, others choose to opt out of large corporation, concluding that the stress and the trade-offs required to reach the C-suite outweigh the benefits. The numbers show that what organizations are doing – however well-intentioned – is not working as well as they should.

By participating in CED’s Advancing Women in Corporate Leadership, we hope to inspire more companies to embrace a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

2.  Are there any daily practices that Egon Zehnder employees engage in that advance diversity and inclusion?

We have a unique opportunity and responsibility to advance diversity and inclusion through our work. We strive to meet a diverse pool of talent and provide good counsel on the ways in which they can advance their careers. We also have a responsibility to help our clients attract and retain diverse talent including presenting a diverse slate of candidates and advising throughout the onboarding and integration process to ensure candidates are set up for success.

3. In what ways has rising global competition heightened the need to increase female representation in leadership?

In a heightened war for talent, candidates are often seeking to join companies that are progressive in their approach to creating a diverse and inclusion culture. When they see a lack of representation at the top of companies, they question the company’s culture.  If the candidate is diverse, and they don’t see diverse representation in leadership roles, they ask themselves if they will also get caught up in a systemic barriers to diverse talent advancing in the organization. Employer brands matter and employers’ standing on diversity and inclusion matters to an increasing number of talented people.

The core benefit of a diverse team with an aligned purpose is that you solve problems better. To be more innovative and creative, companies must have diverse teams working together. Talented people drive growth and if your organization does not embrace a variety of perspectives, good ideas are likely walking out the door. 

4. For companies that have yet to establish a set of D&I practices, what steps can they take to begin?

First step is to define what success looks like for the organization in order to build a plan. Gather both quantitative and qualitative data to understand the current employee experience. This means going beyond the identification of inclusion gaps to truly understand the drivers of those gaps. Then leaders can set goals and formulate a plan to create a diverse and inclusive culture. The key is to know where you are today and where you want to be in the future so that you can commit to the necessary steps to achieve the goal.

5.  What is a key takeaway from Egon Zehnder’s recent research on diversity?

Egon Zehnder releases a Global Board Diversity Tracker every two years. We will publish our next report later this year and will include case studies of companies from around the world who are successfully becoming more diverse. Our hope is to share the experiences of diverse boards so that other companies can learn how to start – or expedite – their own journey.