How to find (and keep) women business leaders — Advice for owners, boards, and senior management
Despite the overwhelming evidence that diversity is essential to business success, the trend is going in the wrong direction when it comes to women at the top.
According to the Swedish non-profit foundation AllBright, the growth of women in the highest positions in Swedish companies has never been weaker. A recent PwC Sweden study shows that the percentage of women in the position of Chair of the Board is decreasing among the stock exchange's larger companies, that the total gender distribution on boards is unchanged compared to the previous year, and that the average age among board members is increasing. McKinsey & Company together with Lean In report that we are in the midst of a "Great Breakup," where women are demanding more from their employers and leaving their companies at the highest rate we've ever seen.
All of this risks weakening Swedish industry, not least because gender-equal companies show stronger profitability than companies without women in senior management. When other countries are progressing in terms of gender equality, Sweden —once a leader on the issue— is instead regressing. It's not only embarrassing, it's also bad business.
But the solutions and the candidates exist.
Wes CEO Carolina Engström emphasizes the following recommendations on what company leadership, owners, and boards can actively do both to increase the proportion of women at the top and to retain female talent.
1. Professionalize the recruitment process and set higher demands on your recruitment partner! Don't accept shortlists with only male candidates, go outside established networks, dare to be a difficult client, and demand a wider candidate pool.
2. Embrace transferrable skills and experiences! Let go of the notion that experience in your specific industry or business area is non-negotiable and equates to competence. It doesn't have to be the same thing. If the candidate supply is perceived as limited within your industry, look for similar experiences and contexts instead.
3. Dare to think outside the box and stop wasting the existing talent! We see a lot of talent waste across Swedish business —waste of skills, experience, potential, and ability— all because companies and their leadership don't dare to think in new or different ways when it comes to recruiting leaders. Invest in developing the talent that already exists within the company, while simultaneously taking the necessary steps to attract and retain top candidates. In the war for top talent, wasting talent is just a waste.
4. Lead from the top and seriously prioritize the diversity and inclusion work! This is a business-critical issue and, just like all other strategic priorities, it requires genuine commitment, resources, planning, and clear goals — both at the senior management level and throughout the organization.
5. Include the new/different perspectives! Inclusive leadership at the top is essential for success and in order to fully utilize and take advantage of the benefits of diversity and the different perspectives and experiences. It's also key to retaining talent. Candidates now have higher requirements when choosing an employer and reject, among other things, employers with homogenous boards and management teams. They closely consider the company's values and culture as part of their decision and they want to know if the company is serious about sustainability and diversity and look closely at the prospective employer's work on these issues.
Wes recruits the very best candidates for management, executive, and board positions — and we specialize in diversity and inclusion. We are experts in helping companies build professional, modern, and diversified boards and senior management teams. Wes also works with candidates and businesses on executive coaching, strategic consulting, second opinion, and more. Contact us if we can help you!